I'm just one of thousands, if not millions of both volunteer and paid motorcyclists world wide who spend time trying to lift the skill base of riders to reduce the risk of harm and raise their enjoyment of riding on two wheels. I guess the reasons why we do it are all pretty similar in that it maintains our own personal standards whilst trying to help others. And let's not mention that essential ingredient of having fun!
Watching all riders go from strength to strength over the months of coaching with IAM to pass their Advanced Police Roadcraft test gives a lot of quiet satisfaction and pride. However, some give a bit more pleasure than others and I'd like to introduce Colin.
Colin and his Road King
Colin joined IAM in 2013 and before IAM had established a presence in his region, it was a 4 hour haul up to Auckland, spending a further 2 hours on a demanding mentored ride; then riding 4 hours home again. His level of commitment to raising his skills was truly humbling. Even more recently, it's still been over 2 hours each way to attend more "local" advanced coaching. Furthermore, on both the longer hauls and shorter ones, Colin unfailingly showed up in all weathers.
Colin's business and family commitments disrupted his coaching for lengthy periods but he showed real determination to get the job done. On Wednesday, I took Colin for his formal Advanced Test, covering city, freeway, and country road environments and he absolutely aced it. The enthusiastic response Colin got from the IAM coaching team and other members showed just how much his perseverance and fabulous attitude was recognised and makes it all so worthwhile. As the title of the post says: "THIS IS WHY WE DO IT".
Oh, and don't let anyone say that a cruiser isn't the ideal machine to make rapid progress on twisty back roads, it's all about situational awareness, road position, throttle control and being in the right gear - just follow Colin and be impressed!
There was only one downside to the day. About 25 km from home, I got a puncture! A bit of a wobble whilst cornering alerted me to the fact and I pulled over to have a look. Sure enough, the rear tyre was well down but I couldn't see the source of the leak. It was in the middle of nowhere with no cell connectivity either. Fortunately, I always carry an electric pump and a bit of trial pumping showed that it would hold air for a wee while. That last 25 km took well over an hour with regular stops to add air but at least I got home!
An inspection the next morning revealed a small slit in the corner of one of the rain grooves of my Pilot Road 5 tyre which was only fitted 2000 km ago - bugger! I was a bit concerned about unseen damage to the carcass through running at low pressures so this morning, took it by car to a dealer about 140 km away who had a direct replacement in stock if the need arose. A quick inspection showed that the tyre was damaged internally. Offsetting the pain to my wallet was the outstanding service at Drury Motorcycle Performance Centre. From arrival to leaving was under 30 minutes and they even made me a cup of coffee in that time - how good is that?
The new tyre getting fitted
Back home and ready to assemble
Aligning both wheels with a laser rig
Road safety concerns all of us and with increasing traffic volumes and drivers being distracted by any number of in-car devices, drugs, alcohol and downright poor attitudes and skills, it affects us all.
There is a very sobering website covering every road death in Australia since 1989. The way that the graphics are presented make the statistics especially poignant. It's HERE. My best friend and close workmate was killed in a road accident in the late 1980's and only a few minutes after being told, Jennie and I, accompanied by a police officer; had to break the news to his wife and children. That's not something you ever want to do more than once in a lifetime and it still haunts me in darker moments.
It was this tragedy which had such a big impact on my life in so many ways and every one of the deaths represented on the Australian website and the rest of the world have people who are profoundly affected for the rest of their lives. The main hope is that at least some good also comes out of it for those left behind. In my case, it caused me to focus on what was really important in life. Indirectly, I suppose it caused my later involvement with the IAM rider and driver improvement programme, both from a personal benefit basis and being able to pay it forward later by helping others to become better riders.
On an altogether different note, for my 70th birthday late last year, our wonderful daughter gave me a voucher so that we could go together on an Asian cooking course in Auckland. We finally found time to redeem the voucher and just over a week ago, attended the course. I chose Malaysian food as I'd never cooked it before.
The tutors were huge fun, easy to follow and everything was prepared from scratch. Here are some photos of the occasion.
Our gorgeous daughter - fantastic facilities
Demonstrating before we start - oh those spice aromas!
Teamwork - Victoria wielding a sharp knife whilst I wash rice
Plating up - perfect rice dome
Pretty good, even if I do say so myself! Tasted divine
We had a fantastic time together but I'm now under pressure to cook it for Jennie. Managed to stall for a wee while as we can't get some of the fresh Asian herbs where we live but our daughter has sided with her mother and will be mailing some down from Auckland!
Our central north island region of IAM covers some 36,000 sq km so it's difficult to get a bunch of riders together to socialise as opposed to formal 1:1 coaching. We try and organise a purely social ride every couple of months or so but with winter here now and with parts of our region getting some decent frosts and/or fog first thing, meeting at a central location can present a few challenges. It's an early start for some, riding a couple of hours or more to a rendezvous, spending 3 or 4 hours on the ride and then going home afterwards. Extreme care on the roads are required and good warm gear too. My Gerbing heated gloves were perfect for an early morning start.
However, a few hardy souls turned up last weekend to ride through the Waikato back roads. It would seem that a few car clubs had the same idea as we shared the start point at the small town of Te Aroha with the MX-5 (Miata) and Ford Mustang owners clubs. At the finish point, it was an encounter with the Jaguar owner's club. Excellent that everyone mingled and chatted.
Some of the group arriving at Te Aroha
The Waikato province has some fabulous, technical backroads and the leader of this ride who goes by the nickname of "Goose" had chosen some beauties. We use the "corner marker" system where the second rider stops at a turnoff to ensure everyone takes the correct route. It enables riders to progress at a good pace without anyone missing the turns. I volunteered to be the Tail End Charlie sweeper on this ride to keep an eye on things from the very rear. That position also means it's a real pleasure from the back to see a bunch of identically-trained riders all cranked over taking the same lines through corner after corner - sheer poetry!
The ride took us past the entrance to the Hobbiton set from the Lord of the Rings movie. A bit of care was needed here as narrow, twisty country roads and bus loads of tourists aren't a good mix with riders "pressing on". However, no dramas! Everyone who has been there says it's a terrific experience, not at all tacky. It's located on a working farm.
Not a Hobbit in sight (file photo from Trip Advisor)
The back roads were exceedingly well chosen by Goose as with the exception of just a handful of km near Hobbiton, we encountered almost no traffic. Just east of the town of Cambridge, we rode up a narrow sealed track to the summit of Sanatorium Hill; so called because it tuberculosis patients were once sent there to recover. All that remains now is a beautiful park with spectacular views across the Waikato province. The view was made even nicer with the remains of morning fog below us in patches and frontal cloud starting to roll in.
Mount Pirongia in the distance from Sanatorium Hill
The bikes at Sanatorium Hill
Striking frontal cloud starting to roll in
From the photo op stop, it was on to our lunch destination, Oasis Hideaway just outside Cambridge. It's a rustic function venue which is open to the public on Sundays with their speciality being wood-fired pizzas - perfect!
Lots of natural wood everywhere at Oasis Hideaway
Some of the outdoor seating with a large brazier
Petrified wooden dragon - could it be Smaug?
After filling up with pizza, it was time to head for our respective corners of the central north island. It's so nice riding with friends whom you trust implicitly and I arrived home towards sunset happy and having covered a little over 400 km. The first social ride of winter!
It was also time to renew the brake pads on the Suzuki. The OEM pads have lasted for 40,000 km with a lot of life still left in them. However, they've always been "adequate" at best and it is well past time to upgrade them. On the Blackbird and Street Triple, the OEM items were replaced with EBC HH sintered pads and the improved braking was remarkable. Why the manufacturers don't fit pads as good as these as standard is beyond me. They are kind to brake rotor life too.
Decent stopping power!
Not a big job to fit them to the Suzuki, although it took a chunk of the morning to replace them all, much of which was taken up with giving the calipers a thorough clean. Jennie thinks the rear pads look like toy tortoises, bless her. I can see what she means in the picture below!
New EBC and old OEM rear brake pads (or toy tortoises if you prefer)
A curious thing though! EBC pads are manufactured in the USA so I looked on eBay USA to buy them on line. However, the pads for the GSX-S 1000 are different depending on whether it's the ABS or non-ABS model. I needed the ABS version. It was hard to tell which was which from the eBay adverts and as a lot of the GSX's imported into the USA are non-ABS (why????), I wasn't prepared to get into a hassle if I ordered the wrong ones so bought them locally for a bit more than I'd have paid ex-USA. The weather is crap outside today so bedding in will have to wait until later this week.
The other purchase which arrived today from Revzilla is a new motorcycling undershirt. I've been a long term fan of Icebreaker merino layers for all activities as they are warm in winter, wick sweat off in the summer and you still have friends at the end of a ride as they don't smell! A lot of my layers are getting old and tatty so perusing Revzilla, I saw what might be just the thing. It's a skin layer made of Outlast fabric which apparently regulates temperature in both summer and winter. Allegedly, it was developed by NASA for the space programme where B.O might lead to extreme violence on a long stay in space! I'm normally the world's biggest cynic with claims like that but it's made by Rukka. Given their excellent reputation, it's worth a try at US$70. Looking forward to see how it performs.
Rukka Outlast body shirt - I definitely don't look like this guy!
I'm fairly well educated and thought my problem-solving skills were reasonable so why is it that the moment that our desktop PC decides to misbehave, I turn into a knuckle-dragging moron with psychopathic tendencies? Even the cats steer clear of me when something goes wrong with the computer.
Let's go back a month or two.....
The Institute of Advanced Motorists in NZ is growing fast and emails with documents attached leave a bit to be desired in terms of rapid communications between regions. Similarly, it's difficult getting key players physically together to do some forward planning. Enter Microsoft on their white charger, bless 'em. They provide a suite of tools which falls under the general title of Microsoft Teams free of charge to charitable institutions and all the indications so far is that it's an absolute gem and will save bucket loads of time. It makes document sharing and editing in real time a piece of cake. Nice clear folders giving multiple access to all the key documentation any of us need. All installed and working first time up by one of our IAM Observers who also happens to walk on water when it comes to IT systems. He also talks in clear, unambiguous English but more on that later. Shame he rides a BMW.
Simple, free and works brilliantly - screen shot of part of the system
One of the other superb features of MS Teams is the ability to multi-party teleconference by video, or voice alone. This is a godsend, just as it is in the normal business world or academia. It's particularly valuable to my region of IAM which covers an area of some 34,000 sq km. Getting the voluntary regional Observing team physically together for planning purposes is a nightmare but with teleconferencing, easy peasey and all part of working smarter.
In the short while the system has been working, I've used a combination of tablet and Samsung S8, principally because my desktop PC has no camera or mic. However, having a nice big screen to use whilst teleconferencing would be a big plus for an old codger like me, so let's buy a video camera with an in-built microphone and hook it up - how hard can that be? Well as it happens, soaking up half the weekend with several losses of temper, not to mention plummeting self-esteem!
Nice, simple Logitech camera clipped to the top of the PC screen
Last Friday, my Logitech camera duly arrived by courier and the sparse instructions optimistically said, "Clip it to your screen, stick the other end in a spare USB port and the world will be your oyster". You just know that it's going to end badly, don't you? Although the video worked fine, the audio was non-existent and the control panel only partially resembled what was on the instruction sheet. After an hour or so of blundering about and finally admitting defeat, a quick search of the internet implied that Windows 10 was the work of the Devil and the various builds and patches ensured that getting peripherals to work properly had about the same chance of winning Lotto. What to do now?
With a sinking feeling, I explored making contact with Microsoft or Logitech and it appears they've both got quite cunning to avoid both expense and direct responsibility for solving the problem. I was directed to what are euphemistically called "Community help boards" where supposedly IT-savvy people unconnected with the main parties try and solve your problem. Messages detailing the problem were duly placed and literally within minutes, replies were posted. This turned out to be quite a depressing experience as they may well have been talking in Martian.
An example: "Yes, Windows 10, build version 17134 stuffs up the camera drivers and you need to roll it back to an earlier version called Zog 1634, revision xyz "(I made that bit up). Here are the instructions on how to do it - we hope that you have a doctorate in computer systems as it will only take 24 hours in that case". One look at the instructions indicated that trying to follow them would likely end in complete disaster. The community boards yielded completely differing ways of solving the problem but there was a common thread. When I asked whether their solutions would solve my problem, you could sense a mental crossing of fingers and a long-winded answer which boiled down to "Maybe". Plain English and confidence in getting a good outcome are clearly skills lost to IT people.
Not wishing to turn a bad situation into a hopeless one, I had a nosey about on the Microsoft website and saw that a major update of Windows 10 was being rolled out. Windows 10, version 1803 to be precise, so that it looks as if I know what I'm talking about. Using that time-honoured IT expert solution of crossing my fingers, I started the download and a couple of hours later and answering some Microsoft startup questions which I took an (un)educated guess at EVERYTHING WORKED, INCLUDING THE MIC!! Why didn't anyone simply tell me that there was an update and to try that?
Success is why you see a smile in the next photo taken on the webcam. If it had been a video, you would have heard me singing ,"We are the champions".
A happy non-IT person
Having now offended every human being on the planet with IT skills, I will take my leave. Running the maintenance engineering team at a large pulp and paper mill was child's play compared with hooking up this video camera to the PC! Good job spending a whole Saturday getting a solution was whilst it was pouring with rain and I didn't want to get the Suzuki covered in crap! Until next time........
It's been a busy few days for this old fella! Last Sunday saw an IAM ride in wet and often torrential conditions. Not the most enjoyable environment but it's good practice riding in adverse conditions whilst making progress to keep us sharp. Tony, one of our Trainee Observers (mentors) is getting to the pointy end of his training so getting him and a new Associate out in challenging conditions keeps everyone honest.
Yours truly from Tony's Go Pro - rain, rain go away......
The ride went surprisingly well with no anxious moments and all our rain gear did its job with no leaks. I gave my Cordura gear a wash recently with Nikwax Tech Wash and TX.Direct Wash-in and those two products do a great job of rejuvenating riding gear. I've used Tech Wash previously on hiking jackets etc but never previously used the two products in combination. Don't know how long it will last but extremely impressed.
Great for Cordura/Gore-Tex-type riding gear
Tony (Yamaha Tracer) and Jim (Honda ST 1300) at the coffee stop
On Tuesday, it was an early start to the city of Hamilton 160 km away for a routine service and new tyres. The last 2 sets of tyres on the Suzuki have been Metzler Roadtec 01's. On both occasions, useful life has been about 11,000 km. Whilst there is still some reasonable tread left on both tyres, the front 01 goes out of shape and the bike tends to drop in rather than roll into tight corners. False economy to wring every last km out of such critical bits of equipment so both always get changed at the same time.
Metzler Roadtec 01 front tyre at ~11000 km
Metzler Roadtec 01 rear tyre at ~11000 km - kept its shape quite well
Even with the front tyre going out of shape, they're a superb tyre and grip well in all conditions from torrential rain to a trackday in hot conditions. I would have happily replaced them with an identical set but more on that in a minute.
Arriving at Boyd Motorcycles, they were waiting for me and the bike was whisked off into the service bay pretty much as soon as I got off it. Great staff who try and get me back on the road as soon as possible as they know it's just over 2 hours to get home. Only had time for a quick peek in their showroom as a friend was picking me up rather than hanging about at the dealer, However, I liked the BMW R9T cafe racer in the photo below. Not sure how comfortable it would be on a long haul though.
BMW R9 Cafe Racer in the foreground
The service and new tyres took about 4 hours which was pretty good. The replacements are the new Michelin Road 5's, the successor to the PR3's and 4's which I've previously used on various bikes and liked; especially wet weather performance. The switch away from the Metzlers is pure curiosity.
Having been been released relatively recently, the pricing is still pretty sharp, presumably to gain market share. There's a host of technical differences compared with both their predecessors as well as the Roadtec 01. The most obvious visual difference is that the design more resembles their pure sport tyres than the PR3's and 4's with a high crown and a tread pattern which stops a long way short of the tyre edge - see below.
Michelin Road 5 front tyre
Michelin Road 5 rear tyre
Preliminary magazine road tests suggest that it's a superb all round sport touring tyre and outstanding in the wet. This is somewhat comforting because that lack of tread out towards the edge is a slight worry. I just hope that the design brief to the French engineers wasn't " Nobody leans a bike zat far in ze wet, so no tread is needed. If anyone does, well, merde......". Well I do, given half a chance so "merde" indeed! I'm sure that the compound takes care of that problem (he says hopefully).
Although the Suzuki came with 50 profile tyres, I've gone for 55 profile again for quicker turn-in and a bigger contact patch when leaned over. Michelin's marketing department are a bit vague on expected tyre life compared with its predecessors but from experience, they speak with forked tongue anyway. The claim was that PR4's lasted 20% longer than PR3's but from personal experience, there was absolutely no difference.
It's far too early to make any objective comments about performance, not wanting to skate along on my arse on the delivery trip home. That will have to wait until they are properly scrubbed in. If they are as good as the Metzler 01's, last for a minimum of 10,000 km and are trustworthy at pace in the wet, I'll be a happy camper!
The ride home was one of those which are truly good for the soul. No time constraints, beautifully warm and because it was late afternoon, very little traffic on the road. New tyres meant not treating the road like a personal race track whch meant that I could chill and enjoy the spectacular views along 50 km of coast road. Arriving in Coromandel at sunset, I pulled up at the wharf which is just a few hundred metres from our home on the ridge in the following photo.
Sunset on Coromandel town wharf
Aren't days like this what we live for? Good for the soul indeed and out fishing in the boat tomorrow. This retirement business isn't too bad at all!
Once a year, we meet up with our friends Georgina and Mike from Wellington and spend a few days exploring some part of NZ together. Regular readers of the blog may remember last years' trip to the top of the South Island. This year, our friends weren't able to travel far because of other commitments but as we weren't all that familiar with the surrounds of our capital city, they arranged a local itinerary and kept quiet about what we'd be doing over the weekend.
Leaving Coromandel last Friday, we set off for Wellington, some 650 km away in Jennie's Jazz Rally Sport. Most of the roads in NZ are a lane in each direction interspersed with overtaking lanes every few km. It's only near cities that motorway-type roads are normally encountered. The most interesting part of the trip down for us is the so-called Desert Road. This is part of State Highway 1 in the central north island. It sits at between 2000-3200 ft (600-1000 m) altitude and is part of a plateau with 3 active volcanoes on it. There are skifields on the volcanoes (fun, fun!) and apart from herds of wild horses, the only other significant occupants are the military on manoeuvres. It's a wild, lonely place but stunning in good weather. Not so nice in bad weather as we were to find out on the return home!
The Desert Road and Mt Ngauruhoe (7500 ft, 2300 m) (source: maplogs.com)
The next day was spent exploring Wellington's south coast, apart from a drive to a lookout at the northern end of Wellington Harbour. It ain't known as Windy Wellington for nothing and we could see a stormy weather front rolling in from the south.
Wellington city centre is on the other side of the harbour disappearing into a squall
By the time we got round just east of the city, it was blowing an absolute gale and pouring down which arguably, is the best time to see Wellington's south coast. As cities go, Wellington is really pretty. The compact CBD is pretty much on the level with the suburbs around the hills surrounding the harbour.
Looking across to Mt Victoria as another squall comes through
The storm front took an hour or so to pass through and better weather to come in behind it but the kite surfers were having a ball in Lyall Bay getting big air and attaining some impressive speeds.
Screaming along in Lyall Bay
Bronze artwork called "Frenzy" - I wouldn't want to meet it in the water!
After the weather front had passed through, we continued the tour of the south coast and then had an early meal at a Thai restaurant as our hosts rather mysteriously told us that we were going to the movies but refused to say more!
We pulled up in the dark in a normal suburban street and noticed a few people strolling down the driveway of an older house and where "normal" people have a garage or workshop, there stood a movie theatre!! It's called Time Cinema and the original occupant of the house built it over 35 years ago for family and friends to enjoy old classic movies in a relaxed setting - how absolutely fantastic! As well as a 40 seat movie theatre in original 50's decor, the reception area is packed full of memorabilia such as movie cameras through the decades, classic posters and so on. Here's a peep.....
Part of Reception area (source: Time Cinema)
Theatre room (source: Time Cinema)
The first half of the evening was taken up with footage by both locals and professionals of the Wahine ferry disaster 50 years ago. The Inter-Island ferry Wahine foundered on rocks at the entrance to Wellington Harbour in one of the worst storms ever to hit NZ. Over 50 people lost their lives and there would have been many more had it not been for the heroism of rescuers. A tragic event but fascinating to see the footage from that time.
On a much lighter note, the interval was about 30 minutes long and here was yet another delightful surprise! For the modest admission price of NZ$10 (US$ 7, GBP 5), supper was thrown in too with a distinct late 50's theme. The savoury was crackers with a slice of processed cheese on top, adorned with a slice of tomato. This was followed by slices of sponge cake and fruit cake and cups of tea served from a giant pot. Absolutely kitsch, absolutely fabulous!
Returning to the theatre room to a hand-rung bell, the nautical theme continued with a showing of the original black and white Titanic movie from 1958 called "A Night to Remember". Among the stars was a very young Honor Blackman famed for her later roles as Cathy Gale in the Avengers TV series and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Honestly, it was far more gripping than the later version, better acting and the special effects were much better than you might have thought from a 50 year old movie.
What a treat and wonderful surprise it was to be introduced to something as delightfully quirky as Time Cinema - I still grin when thinking about it. Definitely a highlight of the trip. The world needs places like that!
The next day saw a round trip west of Wellington to a small beach community called Makara west of the city as we'd never been there before. A biker's paradise with a narrow, twisty road running in deep valleys. Certainly not much room for error though, especially if anything coming the other way decided to cut blind corners. The intent was to have lunch at the cafe there but unbeknown to us, the cafe got destroyed by the recent Cyclone Gita.
Remains of the cafe wall
Oh well, it would have to be a late lunch in Wellington as there was some more exploring to do.
Picturesque old cottage at Makara
De-consecrated old church at Makara - not for a big congregation!
Makara beach - a desolate spot in winter
Before heading back to the city to find something to eat, there was time to visit the wind farm overlooking Makara and the immediate surrounds - no wonder given that the west coast in this area is renowned for rough weather! Apparently, this farm is capable of powering 70,000 homes.
A heck of a size compared with the trees
Scattered along the ridge line for several km
Not really an eyesore on the landscape
On Monday, we said goodbye to Georgina and Mike and headed about 50 km north to catch up with old friends Bill and Marg at Paraparaumu. Isn't it funny with really close friends..... don't see them for at least a year and the moment see each other, it's like you've never been away. Guess that's part of the definition of real friendship.
After lunch, Bill and I hopped on mountain bikes for a bit of exercise. There's a fairly new motorway north of Wellington and as part of the overall design, the national roading authority, NZTA; has also built a gravel cycleway which runs alongside it through nicely landscaped berms. In fact, kudos to NZTA for the planting of millions of native shrubs all along the motorway. Not only that but they have deliberately established flight corridors of trees for birds so that they can travel with shelter and nesting between the coast and mountains in an uninterrupted manner. Our friends have already noticed the increase in bird life around the area. Furthermore, the rain runoff from the motorway has been channelled into man-made wetlands which are already being colonised by black swans, geese and ducks. A great example of roads being built with strong environmental considerations. They don't have to be eyesores.
Part of the motorway with dense planting of young native shrubs
On two wheels of a different kind!
Early the next morning, we left to drive the 600-odd km home in some of the worst conditions that we have ever encountered - gale force winds, driving rain with limited visibility, thunderstorms and even a tornado not far from where we travelled. Some parts of the north island sustained quite a bit of damage from the wind, with one gust recorded at 213 km/hr! Driving in those conditions is all part of the fun, albeit pretty tiring keeping the concentration levels up for 8 hours.
So no motorcycling this time around but as they say, a change is as good as a rest! Seeing and doing things you haven't previously experienced is always good for the soul.
After the huge variety of activities listed in the last post, the level of commitments haven't really slackened off at all. The weekend before last was spent in Auckland teaching Roadcraft Observer theory and behavioural requirements to a new bunch of IAM Trainee Observers. Most trainees feel overwhelmed by not only having to ride to a high standard but whilst doing so, observing a new Associate for improvement opportunities, what they do well and remembering everything in order to discuss how their ride went at the debrief! In practice, a fully-qualified Observer is always present on the training rides to hand-hold so it's not (quite) as traumatic as first thought. When asked what makes a good Observer, the answers always focus on technical competence and prompting is needed to draw out the interpersonal stuff. We all know from our personal experience in business that technical aspects of a job are usually fairly straightforward. However, if anything is going to cause a work to turn to custard, it's almost always people-related problems and their behaviours. Fair comment?
A mix of people and technical skills make a good Observer
In an informal moment, one of the presenting Observers made an interesting comment about the bikes which were ridden to the course (see the photos below). It's a bit of a generalisation but further south in NZ, IAM members seem to favour adventure-oriented bikes, even if they do spend most of their time on tar seal. The words "Bavarian Tractors" were only bandied about in a light-hearted manner, honestly! The further north you go, there seems to be a wider mix of bike types and certainly more with a sport-oriented bent. We drew no conclusions from this, principally because we northern types didn't want to be labelled a bunch of Rossi wannabes!
A good mix of bike types on the course
Not an adventure bike in sight in this photo!
A few days later, we collected our new boat from the dealer. Really impressed with the quality of both the boat and trailer but a few days were needed to fit it out with odds and ends ready for fishing and towing the grandkids on a biscuit in due course. Along with the new boat came a marine VHF radio which meant that I had to sit a marine radio operator examination. Sudden panic as I'd been pretty lax about studying and had worries about my 70 year old brain retaining anything. A bit of solid cramming for a couple of days, sat the exam and mercifully achieved the 100% needed to pass - PHEW!
With that out of the way and with the tides and weather looking favourable, it was time to get serious about putting it in the tide for the first time - not for fishing but simply to get used to everything and how it handled. Still waiting for the computer-cut radio-call sign lettering and boat name to arrive, but that can wait. Meet "So-fish-ticated", the name chosen by our daughter!
Stabicraft 1410 Fisher, ready to hook up to the 4x4
Christening it at the end of our street
Jennie skippering it round some of the many islands just off the coast, in flat conditions
Very impressed with the 3 cylinder, 4 stroke injected Yamaha engine. Extremely quiet and bags of torque. With the light alloy construction, the boat leaps onto the plane almost instantly and can apparently reach 50 km/hr, not that we were interested in trying it out first time up. Got to watch the deceleration though. It stops equally quickly if one is a bit quick off the throttle and could lead to bodies and gear flying about!
Leaving one of the island bays and not a soul in sight
Taken by a mate who was fishing in one of the mussel farms
Next outing will be fishing for real.......... at least from one side of the boat :-) .
Back to motorcycling, it was mentioned in the previous post that at the recent IAM conference, an ex-military paramedic with a passion for motorcycles gave a talk and demo about accident management with an emphasis on motorcycles. Apart from all the other great aspects of his talk, he mentioned a product called Celox which is hemostatic, i.e. stops bleeding fast. Extensively used by the military in conflict situations, granules can be poured into an open wound or there's a range of dressings and pads which have been impregnated the special granules and can stop bleeding from an open wound.
I always carry a modest first aid kit on the bike and it has now been supplemented with Celox gauze pads which are easy to use and very effective. It's the sort of item you hope never to use but in a situation where there is significant blood loss, it might just save someone's life. Got it in the car too. Here's the item we bought and Celox products are available pretty much everywhere in the world:
Celox gauze pads
No rest for the wicked - being invaded by the kids and grandkids for Easter weekend, a 1400 km round trip to Wellington the following weekend in the car to visit old friends, then hopefully back to adventures on 2 wheels.
Definitely one of the busier weeks for this old geezer!
Last weekend was the Institute of Advanced Motorists annual conference and AGM being held at Lake Taupo in the central north island of NZ, about 270 km from where I live. For members who fancied a bit of speed without red and blues and sirens behind them, there was also a trackday on offer on the Friday at the nearby Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park - the full international circuit no less! I was certainly up for that!
Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park - 3.3km international circuit (stock photo)
Riding down the previous afternoon, it was wet with lots of roadworks but the morning of the trackday dawned sunny and warm - wonderful! After scrutineering, we set up in a pit garage, dropped tyre pressures from road settings, taped the mirrors and waited for the briefing and first session.
The Suzuki ready to rock, with Alan's BMW 1200GT in the background
Terry's Aprilia Tuono and Graham's RSV 4 - yumm.....
The first session was taken relatively easy whilst riders learned the track, sorted out braking markers and so on. All accomplished with no dramas. From then on, it was all go, with progressively larger throttle openings held open for longer! My road-going fuel consumption is generally between 5 - 5.3lt per 100 km and on the track it was between 8-9 lt per 100 km!
Alan on the 1200 GT and I were pretty evenly matched. He'd been to the California Superbike School and was really impressive in the tight infield whereas I was faster on the sweepers and straights. At 230 km/hr down the back straight, neither of us wanted to give an inch and all I'll say is thank goodness for ABS whilst scrubbing off enough speed to make the next turn!
70 year old hooligan having the time of his life! (official photo)
The Metzler Roadtec 01's stood up pretty well considering......
The following morning, there was a presentation on electric vehicles which completely changed my ill-informed views! IAM member Wendy brought along her recently purchased Tesla Model S which has a 0-100km/hr time of about 4 seconds and was beautifully appointed.
A local dealer brought along a Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe. Both were surprisingly quick off the line and handled brilliantly. The lack of noise made them even more impressive. Running and maintenance costs were incredibly low and with ever-decreasing battery costs and increasing range, they're now a serious consideration, particularly as a commuting or round town vehicle. A mate of mine has one for commuting and saves $100 per week on gas!
Lloyd hammering a Nissan Leaf off the start line
As enjoyable as the cars were, the real fun were the pedal-assisted e-bikes which were there for us to try out! The Giant model I tried was a real buzz and as fast as heck in "turbo" mode. One of our members has one for commuting to work in Auckland, a round trip of 38 km and absolutely loves it. Methinks that one would be handy to replace my 2 decades old mountain bike with all the hills where we live!
Alan on the Scott e-bike
We also had a presentation by an engineer from Helite, the people who manufacture airbag clothing for motorcyclists. Everything from inflating hi-vis vests through to adventure riding jackets. Externally, they looked like a normal jacket and it was an impressive presentation. Prices were similar to normal higher end motorcycle jackets.
In the afternoon, it was off to Rotorua, some 90km away to play on the luge. This is a concrete track winding down the side of Mt Ngongotaha, hurtling downhill on an unsprung plastic cart. The more competitive of us kept our leathers on in case of wipeouts, haha!
Lee and I queuing in full leathers - no quarter given or expected!
A long way down.... (file photo)
Stunning views over Lake Rotorua from the top of the luge
Lee's stunning MV F3 675 triple in the luge car park
After the excitement of the afternoon, it was a brisk ride back to Taupo for a delightful buffet dinner. The following morning, there was a superb session on accident scene protocols and rendering immediate assistance by an ex-military paramedic and fellow biker. He was down to earth and debunked a few myths - a great learning experience. I'll also be doing a re-think on the medical kit I carry and will certainly be adding Celox gel packs to safely stop bleeding.
Mike Nicolle explaining an aspect of scene management
After a mercifully short AGM (IAM does not thrive on bureaucracy!), it was time to head home. It was in the delightful company of Street Triple owner Joanne, who is the IAM co-ordinator from Christchurch in NZ's South Island. Jo hadn't previously visited the Coromandel Peninsula so it was a good opportunity to show her the sights by bike and car. Jo is dual-qualified as an IAM Observer for both bikes and cars and I'm not! Found it vaguely unsettling driving her around by car, despite her protestations that she was off duty!
Dr. Jo and her Street Triple R on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula
On the fantastic Driving Creek pottery railway in Coromandel
The day after Jo began her long trek back to Christchurch, and in the company of some other IAM members from our region, I attended a suspension clinic in the Auckland area with Dave Moss, one of the world's authorities on how to set up motorcycle suspension. (His website HERE and his YouTube masterclass HERE , among many others). I thought I was "reasonably" ok on the basics of suspension adjustment but just how wrong can you be??? The clinic was a trial initiative between an Auckland-based riding instructor Chris Smith, Dave Moss and amazingly, our regional council authority. The rationale was that properly adjusted suspension has the potential to save lives from a bike which handles better with improved grip, less fatigue plus all sorts of peripheral benefits. The Waikato Regional Council has long championed motorcycle safety with a range of motorcycle training courses but this was the first foray into suspension as a safety initiative.
Arriving in Auckland, Dave checked all the initial settings of the bikes and made some preliminary adjustments based on rider weight. He then explained what he was doing and why in easy to understand terms and made sure that everyone was comfortable to ask questions, no matter how dumb they thought they were - Dave is a patient and natural communicator.
He then explained that we would be going for a ride of some 150 km covering all sorts of conditions with several stops to make adjustments whist the bikes were at normal operating temperature - the only way to do it properly.
Dave adjusting my rebound at the first stop (photo: Tony Knight)
Dave holding a Q&A on the ride
Adjusting IAM member Goose's Honda Crosstourer
Bike porn on a GSX-R 600
To cut a long story short, the improvement to my GSX-S was massive, which was a bit of a shock and all the attendees felt the same way. No longer did it wander about over surface irregularities and the effort required to countersteer through a tight series of bends had diminished by a large amount - far less fatiguing. All this from fairly tired suspension! On the way home, the last 50 km was in heavy rain and an indifferent road surface from the recent storm. I've never previously felt so much confidence in riding in less than optimum conditions whilst still able to make good progress. Massive thanks to Dave Moss, Chris Smith and the Waikato Regional Council for the enlightened attitude of making this genuine safety-related opportunity available to a wide range of riders! What a day, what a week!
Got a call this afternoon from Philip McDaid, Chief Examiner (Motorcycles) for the Institute of Advanced Motorists in NZ. He wanted to know whether I'd accept appointment to the position of IAM Examiner, currently one of 6 in NZ. Must say that it was quite an emotional conversation in terms of both being immensely proud to be asked, coupled with trepidations about upholding the incredibly high expectations and standards.
When starting the journey in April 2011, it was principally driven by the fact that I was seriously lacking in talent and the chances of injury and/or expensive encounters with the gendarmerie were pretty high. There's no need to go over old ground as the journey so far has been reported in the blog since that initial assessment where Philip was able to confirm that I would indeed benefit from mentoring using the UK Police Roadcraft System (my mates were far less diplomatic!).
Eight months after joining, I passed the Advanced Roadcraft Test after a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Serious doubts as to whether I'd ever be good enough. Well, we made it but by then, it became pretty obvious that no matter what a person does in life, learning never stops. Progressing onto Observer (mentor) training was a great way to build further skills as well as paying it forward for all the time and effort from others which had helped me to become a better rider. That took the best part of another year to pass and then it was on to Senior Observer after a couple of years of building experience. A lot of the learning has also spilled over into my personal life, especially interpersonal stuff. A real life example of win-win! Now it all starts again with another round of intensive learning but to be honest, would we really want it any other way? Retirement sure doesn't mean taking it easy!
Interestingly, a comment made by Dan Bateman, a training manager at Team Oregon in the USA when I passed my Advanced Test in 2011 still stands out as much as it did at the time. He said, "Also remember that you will forever be known differently now. It is a tremendous responsibility to always reflect the proper ideals"
It's something I'm acutely aware of and that's going to be even more important now. The hooligan tendencies haven't entirely disappeared and I hope I can live up to the standards!
Initial Assessment - Philip's expression nearly made me pee myself!
Just passed my Observer Test and have dust in the eye (well, maybe a teardrop)
Out for a brisk social run with other Observers
Arrested whilst loitering outside a country toilet!
(Steve is a police instructor and fellow IAM member)
I must be a bit of a disappointment to magazine sellers, no matter what the subject matter as I don't subscribe to any of them. In fact, the only time I night buy them is if I'm in a shop waiting for Jennie, bored and there's a handy magazine rack. Motorcycle mags (naturally!), boating/fishing or house & garden mags are normally what attracts my interest but I haven't looked at any for months.
However, a couple of weeks before Christmas, Tony, one of the Institute of Advanced Motorists Trainee Observers (mentors) that I'm coaching rang and asked me whether I'd seen an article in NZ Bike Rider magazine about safe road positioning. Tony was pretty disappointed with the article as he thought that it needed a lot more context and could be misleading in its published form. I suggested that he contacted the magazine and constructively point out where he thought it fell short of the mark.
Tony wrote an excellent email with no hint of one-upmanship or negativity and a few days later, received a reply from Sean Willmot, the Assistant Editor. Sean's response was gracious and as Tony doesn't live far from the magazine's editorial offices, Sean asked whether they could meet for a chat. Cutting to the chase, they hit it off extremely well and Tony was able to talk about the UK Police Roadcraft system which IAM and other organisations use as the basis for advanced training. It ended up with Sean being invited along for an initial assessment, which he was happy to accept.
It was a great opportunity to make the ride part of Tony's coaching programme so I went along to keep an eye on proceedings.
Tony (L) giving Sean a pre-ride briefing
We spent a couple of hours on major highways and highly technical twisty back roads with significant gradient changes, stopping for a ride mid-point debrief to discuss our observations with Sean. The pre-ride briefing made it abundantly clear that the assessment had nothing to do about being either a good or poor rider, simply to determine what was done well and what improvements could be made as a starting point. It would have been a surprise if Sean had been seriously lacking good skills given the amount of time he spends in the saddle but nonetheless, Tony was able to identify some improvement areas which Sean happily acknowledged.
Tony and Sean in the high country overlooking the Firth of Thames
What did surprise Sean was Tony's outstanding demonstration of a continuous commentary over the comms, showing his situational awareness and how this was impacting on his road position, speed, gear selection and acceleration sense. Sean couldn't believe just how much information Tony was processing at any given moment whilst maintaining good progress.
At the end of the ride, there was a final debrief together with a detailed written report and Sean announced that he'd be joining IAM in 2018 as no matter how experienced you thought you were, learning never stopped. He then said that he was going to write a series of articles about his journey with IAM for the magazine which was a fantastic outcome and may encourage other riders to do the same.
A few days ago, the latest Bike Rider magazine came out and there is a 2 page spread about Sean's assessment experience. Very well written and complimentary. Amazing what a bit of courtesy and positivism can do as opposed to having a rant at someone!
Page 1 of Sean's article
Arty-farty shot taken on Coromandel wharf at sunset after getting back from the ride
Bloody hell, I've jinxed the weather! In the last post reviewing 2017, I showed a photo of an angry sunrise just before a storm last January and said that we "sometimes" get summer storms. Well, the Coromandel Peninsula and other parts of the country have just copped a real beating from a low pressure storm that has come out of the tropics.
We desperately needed the rain after weeks of hot, dry conditions. We had cracks in the ground on our property that you could put your hand in. The forecasters were warning that over 100 mm of rain could fall in a 24 hour period, with nor' westerlies above 120 km/hr. That didn't bother us all that much as our house is protected by a ridge from that wind direction. Sure enough, we survived just fine and the only remedial work required was picking up small branches from around the property and a small amount of unripe fruit blown off various fruit trees.
However, as the storm moved south, the wind swung towards the west and that's when mayhem struck due to a number of factors coinciding - talk about bad luck! This is where we live and what happened.
The Coromandel Peninsula, NZ
The Coromandel Peninsula is a major tourist destination, particularly in summer on account of its beautiful beaches, great fishing and its forest parks. State Highway 25, also known as the Coro Loop; is a mecca for motorcyclists because of its challenging, technical nature. There are only two ways off the Peninsula and for us, the most direct route is due south to Thames which normally takes a little under an hour.
Anyway, back to the story. As the strong wind shifted to the west, it built up a storm surge which hit the eastern coast of the Firth of Thames. Normally, that wouldn't be a major issue but it happened to coincide with high tide and a king tide at that. The torrential rain added to the problem with already swollen rivers and streams. This meant that big waves came over the road, carrying large rocks from the shallows. The combined action has caused extensive flooding in some small communities and smashed the road to pieces in quite a few places. At best, the seal has been torn off the compacted base structure and in the worst spots, the base structure has been wiped out too. Here are a few photos from the local news services and public sources.
The mail must get through!
Boat floating in someone's back yard down the coast
Much of the road is now on the beach
Debris at Te Mata
Tar seal ripped up north of Thames
More seal damage
My heart goes out to the people down the coast who have suffered significant damage to their property. In terms of economic damage, it's happened in the peak tourist season. With the road closed for the foreseeable future whilst repairs are being made, businesses on the western side of the Peninsula will be badly affected. In terms of direct impact on us, it will increase our travel time to get off the Peninsula by a further 1.5 - 2 hours by having to drive round the eastern side of the Peninsula so I guess we'll be minimising travel for a while. We really haven't got much to complain about though compared with people further down the coast.
As mentioned earlier, the severe damage came about through a number of factors coming into play at the same time. However, these extreme weather events seem to be increasing world-wide. Whether it's a temporary phenomenon or a longer term trend remains to be seen but there sure is a cost to them, both in financial and human terms. Let's hope that the rest of 2018 is a whole lot better for the planet!