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Friday, 17 February 2017

Moto-blogger meet-up

It's always a fantastic occasion to get together with other moto bloggers and this time it was with well-known Aussie blogger Steve Hoswell (Chillertek of Road to Nowhere fame).  Steve flew into NZ last night with his mates Stuart, Geoff and Rick to start a tour of NZ's North Island.

Mind you, it didn't get off to a good start with them landing in torrential rain which continued through to this morning. The irony is that we haven't had any appreciable rain since Christmas and were verging on a serious drought - thought that we must have displeased the motorcycling gods in some way!  A scan of road conditions in the province showed local surface flooding but looking at rain radar on the Metservice website showed a clearance from the north so it was all on!

Steve and co were keen to ride the famous Coromandel Loop en route to their overnight stop in Rotorua and it would have been rude not to escort them up the west coast section of the Loop and give them lunch, wouldn't it? So, in drying conditions and  temperatures in the mid 20's C, it was off to Thames to meet the guys, all arriving within minutes of each other.

Steve, leading the lads to the meeting spot

Meeting at Thames Yacht Club

Two Yamaha Tracers, a Tiger 800 and a Street Triple, all decked out with touring luggage pulled in and it was a case of instantly getting on with each other.  Quick introductions, a bit of banter and then it was an absolute privilege to show them the 55 km of highly technical twisties up to Coromandel village (population 1600 on a good day!)

Manaia Hill lookout, about 15 km south of Coromandel

Arty-farty shot at the Manaia Hill lookout

After a nice brisk ride through the hills, it was round to the Coromandel wharf for an obligatory photo op.

Coromandel wharf with the Coromandel mountain range in the background

Coromandel wharf looking up the harbour

It's only about 800 metres to our house from the wharf and it was round home for a bit of rehydration and to blunt an appetite honed by a morning's riding.

Filling up for the afternoon sprint to Rotorua

Geoff, Stuart, Rick and Steve getting ready to depart

What a great privilege it was to meet and ride with Steve, Geoff, Rick and Stuart, whose past adventures I've enjoyed following for some years on Steve's blog - makes all the difference in the world to have actually met them now.  It's sad however that we were only able to spend a couple of hours or so in each other's company.  Might have to remedy that at a later date! Travel safely guys, watch those hangovers, have a fantastic tour and look forward to seeing a full account of your tour when you get back to Australia!

Cheers guys and safe travels!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Not your normal day on the road!

The general perception of government departments (sometimes with justification! ) is of inflexible and slow to act bureaucracies, which are totally out of touch with the general public.  Well, I've just had that notion stood totally on its head, at least in the instance I'm about to describe.

I guess that motorcyclists worldwide have a much higher accident rate per capita than cars, trucks etc and the cost of medical care from trauma is pretty high.  I'm sure that a lot of public servants would like to see us gone from the roads.  Accepting personal responsibility for our riding standards and raising skills is one clear path to reducing the risk of serious harm but leaving that aside for now, it is fantastic to find a government department who are working in a positive manner to improve the lot of riders - who'd have thought it???

 The Coromandel Peninsula which I live on has a low static population, it's pretty remote and has challenging, twisty roads that run by the sea and over the Coromandel mountain range.  In other words, it's a bikers paradise and the so-called Coromandel Loop has an international reputation. Because it attracts lots of bikers, a percentage of them have a distinct lack of skill and very quickly run out of talent on this unforgiving road.  Consequently, it has a high accident rate.

Enter the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA).  Its broad purpose is to deliver transport solutions within NZ on behalf of the government - a pretty wide mandate. Rather than introduce punitive measures against motorcyclists, they looked at initiatives which would positively benefit the 2-wheeled community in conjunction with some other specialist government agencies.  Over the last couple of years, they chose the southern part of the Loop to implement a range of measures which would be of  particular benefit to bikers.

Some of these measures included:
Sealing property entrances to stop gravel ingress onto the road
Better design of roadside storm drains
Improved safety barriers for motorcycles
Better signage and reflective chevrons for bends etc (advisory speeds are marked on signage in NZ)
Modification of roadside cliffs, banks and foliage for better sightlines
Improved road surface and clean-up after repairs
More roadside emergency helicopter landing pads in remote areas. "The medical Golden Hour"
Perceptual countermeasures (Different road markings and other visible cues on deceptive corners, designed to reduce the rider’s speed, improve their lane position and give greater separation from traffic travelling in the opposite direction.)

The graphic below is part of an explanatory pamphlet showing the Southern Loop.  The letter P shows where perceptual countermeasures have been employed and H is where helicopter pads have been installed.  The other initiatives have been implemented as appropriate throughout the Loop.  The full pamphlet can be accessed by clicking here HERE :

Southern Coromandel Loop initiatives

The million dollar question is have they worked?  From personal experience, the maintenance-oriented improvements and signage certainly have.  It's too early for any statistically valid data from the perceptual countermeasures but it's certainly prompted some discussions among riders on bike forums.  Overseas research (check the internet) suggests that it's particularly useful for riders (and drivers) with less experience of riding in those conditions. Riders with higher levels of training tend to use a range of other cues to enhance their situational awareness.

Just before Christmas, I was invited to a preliminary meeting with NZTA and associated agencies to discuss extending the initiatives to the northern section of the Loop.  The invitation was extended because of both my IAM training and being a local from Coromandel Town. Several other riders from the wider region were invited for their input too.  The first thing which struck us was that the various agency representatives were very professional and it was clear that our input was valued.  A number of the agency reps are also keen riders which was an excellent sign!

Last week, I received an invitation to accompany the various agency reps to drive round the northern part of the Loop.  This is it:

Northern Coromandel Loop

Met them at Kopu at the southern end of the Loop for a clockwise inspection of the route.  They had detailed motorcycle accident statistics over a number of years marked on the maps, together with the severity and details of the accident.  Each location was investigated for sightlines, road conditions and many other variables.  In addition, certain spots were investigated to see if perceptual countermeasures would be of potential value.  Possible locations for rescue helicopter landing pads were also identified.  My role as a regular rider on the Coromandel Loop was to give feedback on road conditions, sightlines, tar bleed and so on which constitute a potential hazard to riders.  One example is a particular tight bend with a cliff on one side and the sea on the other.  The base of the cliff is within half a metre of the road and particularly after wind or rain, pea gravel comes off the cliff and settles in the nearside lane.  Limited forward view makes it an even bigger potential hazard.  All dutifully recorded by NZTA for appropriate remedial action!

Blind downhill  25 km/hr left-hander with a sheer drop on one side - the site of a serious accident

The Coromandel-Whangapoua Hill 5 minutes from home - biker heaven! 

Potentially risky overtake with limited forward view

In the photo above, the SUV driver has relied on the logging truck driver signalling that an overtake was ok because of his view from a higher vantage point.  The SUV driver would not have been able to have a clear view from the lower vantage point because of the small trees to the left of the photo. In some locations, clearing some of the vegetation to improve sightlines is carried out to mitigate risk.

In the photo immediately below, this is the approximate view the SUV driver would have had as he crossed back onto his side of the road.  Any approaching vehicle would be masked by the vegetation and during the overtaking manoeuvre, there would have been even less visibility.  Buggered if I would have put my safety (and that of my family) in the hands of the logging truck driver in this particular set of circumstances even if he was trying to do the right thing - would you?

View of oncoming traffic obscured by vegetation

Unforgiving corner with steep drop.  Our house is on the hill in the background!

The last 30 km of the northern part of the Loop is across a stretch of road shared with the southern part where remedial work has already been implemented and we stopped to look at a few spots.  The two photos below show just one example of perceptual countermeasures on one corner.

Downhill traffic is in the lane on the right of the photo

The broad intent is catch the rider's attention and to slightly channel them away from traffic heading in the opposite direction.  Also note that the plastic vertical edge marker posts are closely spaced as a guide to corner severity, particularly as they are reflective at night.

View in the opposite direction

I've deliberately avoided going into technical details on this post but wanted to give NZTA and their associated agencies accolades for being so proactive on behalf of motorcyclists in this instance. Pragmatic people, good listeners, easy to talk to and consummately professional.   As I've been typing this, an email from NZTA has arrived with all the action items for checking - how good is that??  Really impressed and pleased to have contributed in some small way.

Before finishing, it's worth mentioning that one of the other government agencies represented on this project, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC); has contracted qualified providers to run heavily subsidised one day refresher courses for motorcyclists under the Ride Forever banner.  There are 3 levels designed to cater for different levels of experience plus a specialist course for urban scooters.  More info HERE .  The most expensive course is $50 for a whole day so no-one can claim that the cost is prohibitive!  Plaudits are due for the holistic approach to improving motorcycle safety as opposed to trying to legislate us off the road!  These initiatives aren't the complete answer to improving motorcycle safety but it's a great step in the right direction.  Taking personal responsibility for one's own riding standards is still the big ticket item!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

No rest for the wicked.....

Well, after another Xmas/New Year break of drinking and eating too much and being besieged by family, it was time to jump back on two wheels.

One of my IAM Trainee Observers (instructors), Rob Van Proemeren passed his Advanced Roadcraft test last year and has been undertaking practical Observer training since his theory course last July. Practical training consists of a series of modules covering both technical and interpersonal aspects of advanced riding.  Rob has passed all his modules with flying colours and is waiting for his formal Observer Test which will take a fair chunk of a full day under the watchful eye of an Examiner or a fellow Senior Observer. Until then, it's a question of keeping Rob fresh.  A few days ago, we took out Auckland-based Associate Terry who is close to taking his Advanced Test. Terry has an exquisite BMW HP4 for trackdays and recently sold his road-going BMW 1200 GS and replaced it with a KTM 1290 GT.

Lots of colour - Rob with his Hayabusa and Terry with his 1290 GT

Rob about to start the ride debrief and it's good news for Terry!

Both riders in their respective roles were at the top of their game and it was a privilege as a mentor to see such a professional display of riding on a range of challenging roads for a couple of hours. We never stop learning though and there are always more tweaks to further raise our standards. The KTM is a really impressive beast with around 170 bhp on tap and massive torque.  As well as the electronic aids such as ABS and traction control, it has active suspension which is constantly sampling road conditions and adjusting the suspension accordingly.  On one particularly bumpy and twisty country road where the pace could be described as brisk, it looked like it was on rails whilst both Suzukis needed a lot more rider input.  Multi-purpose bikes can sometimes suffer a bit in some aspects of performance compared with more dedicated bikes but the KTM isn't one of them.  Whether it's used for the occasional trackday or on tour down country lanes, it would be right up there with the best specialised machines.

I did have a moment of reflection though with respect to all the goodies packed into modern bikes. There's absolutely no doubt that they're much safer with all the electronic aids currently available.  However, I wonder whether it's getting away from the purity and core reasons why motorcycling is so attractive to many of us?  I don't think there is a single answer to that.  It's for reasons along these lines why I would never consider a Goldwing or a trike - would prefer a sports car.  Each to their own though in the motorcycling fraternity!

It was an odd sort of day weather-wise.  Quite hot and humid with a few showers passing through. My 12 year old Arlen Ness waterproof jacket has progressively moved to the "barely showerproof" category over time and when the rain is a bit more serious, a plastic over-jacket goes over the top.  On the 160 km journey home after the mentored ride, I set off in dry conditions and hadn't been going for more than a few minutes when the heavens opened.  By the time I decided it wasn't just a shower, the top half of me was soaked through.  Even with temperatures in the mid-20's C, I got chilled pretty quickly and even after stopping to put on my over-jacket, it was an unpleasant ride home.

It was serendipitous that I hadn't had a present from Jennie at Christmas because I couldn't think of anything I wanted at the time.  Coupled with this, Rob had mentioned a post-Christmas accessories sale at our favourite dealer in Hamilton.  A quick browse of  their website revealed $100 off the price of an Oxford Montreal 2 jacket and internet reviews were pretty favourable.  Order placed, couriered to home the next day - thanks for the pressie honey!

Although it's not an expensive jacket, the level of detailing is really impressive with a heap of features which I won't list here.  Far too early to assess performance in wet and cold conditions but wearing it on a ride yesterday, it was both comfortable and warm, even with the liner removed and the vents open.  To get a jacket and pants which are totally waterproof for a long while, you're mostly talking about stratospheric prices like Rukka gear.  For the type of riding I do, I can't justify the cost and an oversuit for more taxing conditions is just fine.  Looking forward to trying it out in some sustained rain though.

Oxford Montreal 2 jacket

The inner workings of the jacket.  Nice detailing

Yesterday was taken up with another IAM observed ride, partially to keep Rob up to scratch before his Observer Test but also to take out an Associate from the Central North Island region of NZ, which I'm currently responsible for developing.  Tony joined IAM last year after taking a number of one day courses by commercial providers and wanted a further challenge.  Up to now, he's had 5 outings on his fully-faired Suzuki SV650.  This time, it was on his brand new Yamaha Tracer and both Rob and I were very keen to see how it went.

Tony arriving at our meeting place en route to Auckland

Meeting up with Rob in Auckland

We were seriously impressed with the Tracer.  It's a really nice looking bike in the flesh.  Tony remarked that it actually looked better with the OEM hard cases attached to the bike as the tailpiece and number plate mount is very slim and looks a little odd on its own.  We could certainly see what he was driving at as the purpose-designed cases are extremely elegant and look like an integral part of the bike.  Its wet weight at 210 kg is pretty light and with a relatively low centre of gravity and an adjustable seat makes it pretty good for the vertically challenged (like me!).  The standard stubby exhaust can gave a nice rasp without being too noisy and attracting unwanted attention.  There's something visceral about the sound of a 3 cylinder bike -  similar to the pleasure of listening to a hot V8!  Overall, a great bike and motorcyclists really are currently spoiled for choice.

Mid-ride animated debrief and smiles all round!

The ride was in warm, dry conditions with a bit of overcast - perfect for riding.  With the summer vacations in full swing, Auckland was noticeably less busy than it normally is although traffic on the Southern Motorway was pretty busy as people headed to their favourite destinations - a good test of making safe progress through the traffic.

A really enjoyable day made even better by observing Rob and Tony setting high standards.  Rob has a relaxed but totally professional nature delivered with a strong sense of humour. No sign of the "sergeant major drill instructor" approach which is frowned on by IAM NZ.  This makes him a perfect mentor as it relaxes the rider being observed who can then ride their normal ride without feeling intimidated.  Proof of this was the banter going on over the comms which I had a quiet snigger about.  Tony also had a cracker of a ride and isn't too far away from taking his Advanced Roadcraft Test.  Tony also made an interesting observation that the better ergonomics (more upright riding position in this instance) of the Tracer compared with his SV650 has significantly improved his situational awareness by having an improved all-round view.  Now that's got to be a good thing!

It's such a pleasure to see riders undertaking a demanding upskilling programme which can take many months or even years, both from a rider safety viewpoint and enjoying their riding more.  With the number of motorcycle fatalities highlighted in recently released motorcycle accident statistics, both in NZ and Australia; anything we can do to make a dent in them has got to be worthwhile as government-led initiatives seem to be generally punitive rather than genuinely addressing root causes.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Stopping to smell the roses....

Tired, a bit jaded and certainly not helped by a summer cough and cold which is proving difficult to shake off......

A total of 17,000 km covered this year alone on mentoring Institute of Advanced Motoring members to pass their police roadcraft advanced test and for some, continue on to Observer (instructor) training and passing yet more exams.  It's massively satisfying and a real privilege to see riders raise their personal standards which has got to be good in terms of helping improve NZ accident statistics, not to mention enjoying riding far more.

However, I suppose it's a natural human condition to focus so hard on the tasks ahead that we all run a risk of not getting enough balance in our lives and I'll admit to falling into that trap. All work and no play etc....

There has been virtually no social riding this year where one could ride just for the fun of it with friends, simply enjoy their company and engage in the normal riding banter.  I was therefore delighted to get an email from Lee, an IAM friend from the Auckland region saying that he was bringing his relatively newly-purchased Moto-Guzzi 1200 Sport to the small town of Morrinsville in our region for its first major service and would I like to meet up for a weekday social ride after the service? WOULD I EVER!!!!  It so happened that my Trainee Observer and good friend Rob, who is currently waiting to take his full Observer test was also available so we arranged to meet up and then ride the 130-odd km south to have lunch with Lee and then all ride back north together.  I hatched a cunning plan to lead the north-bound leg of the journey through all the twisty back roads of the north Waikato region where there is minimal traffic and a corresponding absence of the Highway Patrol!

A nice 300+km round trip

Meeting with Rob at the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula, we headed for Morrinsville to meet up with Lee at the Moto Guzzi, Aprilia and Husqvana dealer.  We arrived a few minutes after the service had been completed so it was time to drool over the Guzzi.  The standard of finish and attention to detail was excellent with enough "quirkiness" in the design to make it stand out from other bikes.

Introducing Rob (L) and Lee (R)

Lee is a naval officer and over lunch, it transpired that the Guzzi had become cargo in the hold on a recent visit to Australia so that a bit of exploring of Oz could be done whilst the vessel was in port - very enterprising!

By way of explaining the photo below, Morrinsville is a small town in dairy farming country and the main street has numerous plastic cows with all sorts of colourful designs painted on them.  There was one right outside the cafe we were eating at - perfect for a photo op.

Milking a pun for all it's worth

It was soon time to get going and with me leading, it was time to switch the GPS on as it would be soooo embarrassing to get lost on the tricky back roads in my own territory.  Heading north, it became apparent pretty quickly that the Moto Guzzi is actually a potent weapon on twisty and sometimes bumpy roads, despite it "only" producing a little over 100 bhp.  The almost flat torque curve coupled with rock-steady handling makes it an extremely quick bike in those conditions.  Coupled with a tank range of well over 300 km and great ergonomics, it's a bike that can cover a lot of ground without fatigue.

All three of us had linked SENA comms which is an excellent way to stay in touch on a brisk ride without the need to stop and discuss things.  It's also good for being laughed at for overshooting turn-offs!  Also good for hearing Rob's Hayabusa being wound up in the lower gears - sounded great. About half way through the ride, we encountered patches of light rain and damp roads but a combination of wet weather traction control and good sport-touring tyres meant that a brisk pace could be safely maintained.  Soon, it was time for a quick photo op under heavy skies at a lookout by Lake Waikare, some 34 sq km in area.

Lee and his 8 valve Guzzi Sport 1200

Rob and his hi-viz Hayabusa missile

Yours truly and the stealth GSX-S1000

Continuing the 90-odd km section of twisty roads, we must have encountered just 3 or 4 other vehicles - what a treat it is to still be able to ride on largely deserted roads.  That's what motorcycling is all about!  Approaching a main highway where I was to leave Lee and Rob whilst they headed back to Auckland, we saw a Highway Patrol car sitting just off the road, no doubt watching for speedsters. We pulled in right behind him  on the basis of making a nice photo but no sooner had we got off the bikes than he departed.  Nothing to do with 3 scary bikers turning up, I'm sure!

Saying goodbye to Lee and Rob - yours truly now in hi-viz as the rain had set in

So there we are, 300 km of fun riding with mates you trust completely and what a tonic to fix a bit of fatigue which had quietly crept in.  Now fully rejuvenated and ready to tackle a full IAM calendar through January and February.  Taking time to stop and smell the roses definitely works!

With the festive season now upon us, wishing all my fellow moto-bloggers from around the world everything which you'd wish for yourselves.  Have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic 2017.  We end with a photo I took a couple of hours ago looking towards the hill we live on with the NZ Christmas Trees, the Pohutukawa, coming into flower. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them on the Coromandel Peninsula which make for a breathtaking sight for the next few weeks.

Pohutukawa trees starting to flower

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Game of Fours Challenge, Kiwi Style

Fellow Kiwi moto blogger Andrew tagged me in a Game of 4's Challenge in which 4 questions are provded, each to have 4 answers.  I won't tag other bloggers because I'm pretty much at the end of the line!

The questions are:
1.  What is your favourite food?
2.  What are your favourite drinks?
3.  Places you've been?
4.  Names that you're known by?

Favourite food
By region, it has to be Asian.  Tremendous variety of flavours, quick to prepare and healthy with loads of fresh vegetables.  These are among my favourite foods, not in any particular order.

1.Vietnamese chicken and prawn salad.  Chicken, prawns, cashews,lots of fresh salad vegetables and vermicelli, drizzled with a dressing of fish sauce, white vinegar, chilli and garlic.  Yumm!

2. Tom Kha Gai.  Hot and spicy Thai/Malaysian soup with a coconut milk base.  Normally with chicken but vegetarian with mushrooms instead of chicken is divine.

3.  Beercan Chicken.  Our summer BBQ staple meat dish.  Half a can of beer stuck up the chook's fundamental orifice to keep it moist with herbs and spices of your choice inside and on the skin. We prefer middle eastern spices.  Best done on a BBQ with a lid.

4.  Fresh Snapper.  Great fishing grounds only a few hundred metres from our house.  Normally filleted, dusted in flour and pan-fried.  Raw sashimi-style marinated in coconut milk, lemon juice, diced red peppers, chilli and spring onions makes a great entree.

Jennie looking rather smug

Favourite drinks
1.  Good coffee - black.  NZ has a reputation for roasting and brewing great coffee, even in out of the way places as opposed to trendy city coffee shops.  As a result, Starbucks hasn't gained much of a foothold!

2.  Craft beers.  Just love the proliferation of small breweries using natural ingredients to get fantastic flavours.  Life's too short to be drinking mass-produced crap!

3.  Wine.  Sitting on the deck before dinner sipping a glass of something is one of life's real pleasures.  Ditto for a single malt at the end of dinner with friends!

4.  Water.  We're not on town supply with all its added chemicals.  Filtered rainwater is just delicious.

Places we've been
Travelled round the globe a fair bit with hopefully a lot more to see and do yet.  Some random photos from our travels below.

1.  Tracy Arm, Alaska

About 1 km from the glacier face

2.  Vietnam

Street vendors, Hanoi

3.  Western Australia

Karijini National Park

4.  Thailand

A bit precarious

Names that you've been known by
1.  At school, Jesse - after the outlaw Jesse James.  Cowboys and Indians were big at the movies and on TV at that time.

2.  BAMBI.  Pre-retirement, a woman I used to work with christened me with this.  Born Again Middle-aged Biker.  I can't ever remember her calling me by my real christian name after that.

3.  Geoffrey.  This is my real name but  used by my wife when I've blotted my copybook in some way.  If I hear it being called out in her best school ma'am tone, I know I'm in for a bollocking so make myself scarce.  If she uses Geoff, it's green lights all the way!

Good fun!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Michelin PR 4 tyre review for anoraks

Perhaps I should explain the title of this post for readers who are unfamiliar with the item of clothing in the title line when it is used in a mildly derogatory way by those with British connections!  To call someone an anorak is to describe a person with a nerdy obsession.  It probably stems from from the days of UK steam trains when legions of train-spotters would collect train numbers as they passed, often wearing anoraks to protect them from the crappy British weather.  Let me say right now, dear reader, that I don't currently possess an anorak although I did have one in my teens.  It doesn't stop my darling wife Jennie calling me one though if I talk about motorcycles too much but that's ok as I've been called far worse on numerous occasions.

Getting back on topic...... every so often, fellow moto-blogger Julian Pearce and I will swap our experiences with oils, chain lube, tyres and pretty much anything else we have a common interest in.  This time it's tyres, especially as Jules and I have both been using Michelin PR4's on our road bikes.

Going back a bit, I used Michelin PR3's then PR4's on my Street Triple and found them nigh on perfect for the type of riding I do.  Phenomenal grip in the wet and not too shabby when pressing on in the dry either.  The only slight disappointment was that Michelin's claim of a 20% increase in tyre life compared with the PR3 did not materialise in practice - they were virtually identical for a higher price.  On the other hand as I mentioned in another blog post, the PR4 front tyre felt slightly more planted than the PR3; perhaps due to the bigger spacing between sipes.  All things considered, the price difference between the 3 and 4 didn't really bother me.

When I bought the Suzuki GSX-S 1000 just over a year ago, it came fitted with Dunlop D214's.  For my particular requirements, they were horrible things.  Being a pure sport tyre, it takes a bit of heat to make them grip.  The often damp, cooler conditions of an NZ winter didn't give the level of grip which inspired confidence and there was no way I was going to rely on the Suzuki traction control to stop me skating along on my arse.  Also, the flatter 50 profile of the tyres slowed turn-in and it was easy to run off the edge of the tyre at decent angles of lean.  The final turn-off was tyre life.  I'd destroyed the rear D214 in a mere 3700 km from new and to replace them at that frequency would bankrupt me!  A good example of "fitness for purpose".

Rear D214 at 3700 km from new - not much tread pattern to start with but rather less now!

It was a no-brainer to replace them with PR4 sport-touring tyres, but go for the 55 profile rather than 50 as the sharper profile would assist with a more rapid turn-in.  Some photos of the pristine PR3's and 4's and a review of the PR3 can be found HERE .  

Well, it's now approximately 12,500 km later and they've just been replaced.  They've done one track day and most of the remaining k's have been generally spirited riding with the Institute of Advanced Motorists and minimal commuting.  The centre of the rear tyre was down to the legal minimum tread depth of 1.5 mm and the front hoop was a shade above 2 mm at the same position.  Pointless to extract every last km from them when they are such an integral part of staying upright.

So how did they go? Well, I'm pretty pleased with the distance they lasted, considering what they've had to put up with.  Going to a 55 profile was also a good move as turn-in was noticeably quicker.  Can't take the credit for this as one of my IAM friends, Rob Van Proemeren, had previously done the same to his Hayabusa and was delighted with the improvement in handling.

Equally importantly, front and rear PR4's retained a good profile for most of their life. It was only in the last 1000 km or so that the rear showed obvious signs of flattening in the centre and the front showed flattening towards the edge.  Here are some photos taken at ~12,500 km from new.

Rear PR4

With the rear, it can be seen that the centre part of the tyre is starting to flatten as you might expect, but not excessively so.  This would be principally due to the dual compound construction, aided and abetted by never having a pillion passenger and a relatively light bike.  It can also be seen in the right hand photo that despite some enthusiastic riding including a track day, the wear marks don't quite extend to the edge of the tyre. Compared with running off the edge of the D214, this is is almost entirely due to the higher crown of the 55 profile.  I guess it also gives a larger contact patch when leaned over.

Front PR4

The front tyre is also in pretty good shape but is starting to get flats on the outer edge of the tyre.  The  probable cause is that the bike spends a fair amount of time in the twisties where countersteering is a "must" to make progress!

So in summary, how have the PR4's gone on the Suzuki?  The answer is that they've delivered everything I'm likely to want from a tyre for the type of riding I do.  Phenomenal wet weather grip, good in dry conditions and even handled a track day ok.  Would I replace them with another set?  Certainly would, BUT.......

....... the Metzler Roadtec 01's have been getting great reviews since their release earlier this year and I'm not so one-eyed as not being open to doing a comparison this time around. Price is comparable with the PR4 so why not give them a go to test longevity and performance?  Today's activity involved a 320 km round trip to my favourite dealer to have them fitted and here they are:

The new Metzler Roadtec 01's

Coming away from the dealer, the bike felt like it wanted flop over, such was its sensitivity and I was ultra-cautious about slow speed tight turns until I got used to the rapid turn-in compared with the PR4. The most likely reason is because of the imperceptible flattening off of the PR4 which is impossible to pick up on a daily basis and we don't notice that the rate of turn-in is affected. However, the true tyre characteristics will become apparent over the coming weeks and months, so expect another thrilling post entitled "Metzler Roadtec 01's for Anoraks", or something pretty similar!

As a parting remark on wheels and transmissions, particularly for us chain-driven luddites, I've periodically commented on my near-fruitless quest to find a decent replacement for the wonderful DuPont teflon product which was discontinued without notice in 2012.  One of the chain lubes I've tried since then (a Castrol product) was truly hideous, flinging itself over everything despite marketing claims to the contrary.  Others were a dirt magnet but Maxima Chain Wax was pretty darned good.  Unfortunately, my dealer had run out when I needed some 6 months about ago so reluctantly accepted some Tirox synthetic chain wax on their recommendation.  So glad I did!  Like the DuPont product, it has a Teflon base and and dries to a non-tacky finish and no fling!  The chain stays totally clean and I haven't had to adjust the tension during the time it's been used, so it looks like we're onto a winner.  The only negative is that it doesn't seem to come with a fine application pipe.  No big deal as I had one laying around.  This is the product:
Tirox chain wax - does the business!

New tyres, warm, sunny weather and mutton dressed as lamb

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Pushing my buttons

Most riders who have a well-honed sense of self-preservation are situationally aware, whether it be road conditions which present potential risk or the actions of other road users.   Something as simple as noticing whether a car driver fails to hold a safe line on a twisty road with poor sight lines, or is fiddling about with something inside the car are all subtle hints to stay well clear.  Unfortunately, we all know that there are plenty of both motorcycle riders and car drivers with poor standards which put other road users at risk.

Being trained in Police Motorcycle Roadcraft has unquestionably raised the standard of situational awareness and consequential actions to mitigate risk from my past mediocre levels but it can be a double-edged sword too!  The training, particularly as an IAM Observer (instructor) means that I never switch off as it's so ingrained.  No apologies for that as it's what keeps us safe.  However, at a personal level, there can be a potential downside.  On social rides, I've had competent non-IAM riders say they prefer me to be up front because they think I'll be formally judging them if I'm down the back.  That's not actually true but it's perceptions that count which is why you don't find IAM members advertising the fact in social settings unless it comes up directly.

Moving on to the main point of this post, it's rather a rhetorical question but at what stage do you take action of some form when you see poor driving which may endanger others?  Where's the line between just shaking your head when you see some dumb driving or riding and doing something about it?  It's something I struggle with, partially because of the ego-free mantra of IAM NZ membership and the connotations of not wanting to be seen as self-righteous.  A couple of years ago, we followed a tourist camper van that was periodically weaving all over the road.  As cops in our area are thin on the ground, we rang the van hire company.  It turned out that the occupants had arrived from the UK just a few hours previously and were clearly jet-lagged.  Fortunately, the hire company had a mobile phone contact for them and got in touch pretty much straight away to sort it out.

Something like the scenario above doesn't take much thinking about but fellow blogger Bandit Rider (Andrew) has just mentioned an encounter with an aggressive SUV driver on a recent ride HERE .  That happened to me two weeks ago so thought I'd share it.

I was driving the car up our twisty coast road and caught up with an Audi 4x4 that was waiting to pass another vehicle.  It was clear that the driver was impatient as it was tailgating the vehicle in front.  The other vehicle pulled over soon after and I followed the Audi which proceeded to cut every corner, including ones which were blind.  I was upset as much as annoyed because he appeared to have his family with him.  Friday afternoon and had probably knocked off work early and was in a hurry, heading for one of many holiday homes on our peninsula.

The tipping point for me came after he exited an obscured corner still partially on the wrong side of the road with something coming the other way.  It wasn't a particularly close shave as the other vehicle had time to brake and move closer to the edge of the road but that was sheer good fortune.  However, what got up my nose was that the Audi driver clearly learned nothing from the event and continued to drive in the same manner.  That was when my conscience kicked in and I took a few of photos of his driving.  One of them is shown below.  For info, we drive on the left in NZ!

Accident waiting to happen

The corner is a tight, heavily-obscured left-hander.  The driver moves to the right hand lane to "straighten out" the corner and note that his brake lights are on.  He repeated this on every LH corner and cut across the centre line on right-handers.  What if a bike or car that was travelling at a reasonable pace was coming in the opposite direction at just the wrong time?

Although there is a *555 phone number to report bad driving, I chose to send the details directly to a senior highway patrol officer I knew professionally for comment.  To cut a long story short, he contacted the driver and had what might be described as a constructive but robust discussion, followed up with a warning letter and a copy of the photo above.  In this instance, I'd like to think that a constructive approach where the driver feels perhaps less resentful than when simply receiving a fine and demerit points may have been quite effective but we can never be certain.

This brings us back to the start point......  how do we decide whether actually do something ourselves about a situation we witness or do we just remark on it and do nothing?  I haven't got an easy answer for that and would love to hear from other people who have wrestled with similar situations.