Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Dirty Weekend in Taihape: 2016 Gumboot Rally!


























The Gumboot Rally has been and gone but for a those who went the memories will linger on. For some of us it was the aftermath of the patina left behind on the bikes by some very damp weather. I think most of us are still cleaning dirt off our bikes! However that is but one memory and rather minor considering the weather events that were to happen the following weekend. a lot of it was from the papa small group of us from Palmy made the decision to to pop up to Taihape for the early Saturday part of the Rally.
The Rally is a very informal affair with people booking their own accommodation with meals and refreshments organised on the day with a local eatery. Participants arrive over the day with a gradually growing welcoming party greeting arrivals with a smile and a beer in hand. Our plan for the day was to leave town at 11:00 am and make our way north via the Pohangina Valley and a stop in Kimbolton for lunch. 11:00am saw the crew front up to Manawatu Motorcycles with Barry and Bruce from Wellington also in attendance. Bruce was on his lovely spannied Suzuki GT750K whilst Barry turned up on his Honda VFR400 NC30. I must say I was very impressed with the way Barry was able to 'wrap' himself around his NC30. A bike not renowned for its ability to accommodate people of large stature. Also fronting up for the run was Bruce S on his speed blocked Yamaha RZ 350, Kim on his trusty RZ 250, Sir Al on his VFR, Ian on his cruisy but quick VX800 and yours truely on the XJ.  Our departure was a little delayed as Bruce C sorted out a battery problem that has hopefully been solved with his purchase of a Motobatt battery from Paul. (They are excellent batteries and worth the extra dollars!)
The trip out to Ashhurst had us looking at the Tararua Ranges and what became readily apparent was we were going to get wet. As we made our way up the valley this proved to be true as the odd shower deposited water on us and the road. This required a bit of extra caution as we navigated our way through the valley to our lunch stop at Kimbolton. If you haven't been to the Kimbolton Hotel for a Biker Burger, you haven't lived. Generous would be an understatement. For those staying on in Taihape for the night it provided a wonderful lining for that evening's refreshments. With our bellies full the bikes were pointed northward again for the run up through Rangiwahia to Mangaweka. The road was still a little damp with extra caution through the papa cliff section of the road. After meeting up with State highway one at Managaweka it was a straightforward run into Taihape.
The Taihape Motel is the main venue for the rally and there were already a number of people there to greet us. As always it was great having a yarn with like minded people and checking out the machinery, but all too soon it was time to head south again. Some of us decided to take a more direct route home with the promise that next year we would stay the night and if the bikes are going to get dirty again we might as well make a night of it!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Blessed are Two Strokes!




















Fifty years ago Sunday mornings for many were reserved for religious activities that usually involved a trip to a church or similar. The intervening years have seen many peoples religious tendencies become more private but the need to be part of a like minded community is still present. Whilst some may consider  a group of motorcyclists nothing like a congregation of churchgoers, there are many similarities. For a start our club meets on Sundays and we have our own special set of rituals we follow.  We even have special clothing that could be labelled as our 'Sunday best' and this is the day it is worn the most often. Like many western religions the four elements of earth, air, fire and water play a part in the 'rituals' we perform when riding our motorcycles! Is it not true that the internal combustion engine could be considered our new altar? Maybe we need to start acknowledging that we are having this intense spiritual experience when we are riding as it brings these elements together in a very real and meaningful way....... or maybe it is just a cool fun thing to do!  
 Last Sunday saw a group of 'parishioners' meet at Manawatu Motorcycles for our October End of Month Ride. It turned out to be rather special with firstly, two strokes out numbering four strokes and secondly a few new bikes having their first outing with the VJMC/Blue Haze. It was good to see Chappy turn up with his spannied Kawasaki S3a. He parked it up next to Warren's nicely spannied Suzuki GT380. Next to this was Sir Al with his ever faithful Kawasaki H2 alongside Bruce with his recently acquired Suzuki RG500! Rounding this off was Ian on his recently purchased immaculate Suzuki GSXR 1100L and moi on the ever faithful Yamaha XJ750. Our destinations for the morning was to be run over the track to the Bridge Cafe and then to The Saddle with a run up Valley Road to Manfeild. The New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register were having their spring race meeting so there was plenty to see!
The startup for our departure signalled the beginning of the service with all those wonderful sights and sounds. The dominant sound of the two strokes set the scene for the morning choir. The usual most prominent four stroke bass was replaced by the two stroke tenor sound (almost wrote soprano!) How this sounded to the George Street Coffeerati just around the corner is anyone's guess, but to our ears it was magic, almost spiritual... Our departure from the town boundary was signalled with a great cloud of smoke filling the air with the expansion chambers sounding more soprano than tenor! As we pointed our bikes up the Pahiatua Track I deliberately positioned myself at the back of the pack so I could enjoy this symphony of sound. The bass sound of the XJ and GSXR provided a nice accompaniment as we wound our way to the top and then headed down the The Track and along to our first stop at the Bridge Cafe. The lovely burble of the fours and crackle of the two strokes idling had us parked up ready for a cuppa.
Sitting outside in the sun talking about life, the universe and motorcycles whilst having a snack and a  cuppa is certainly something to savour and look forward to. It certainly made us thankful for our time out on our bikes that morning. However part two of our 'service' was awaiting us. We climbed back onto our steeds and brought the choir back to life as we headed over the Manawatu River and made our way towards the The Saddle Road. The last couple of years have seen a lot of road construction activity so we were keen to see how things were progressing. A lot of work has been completed to ensure that the next Manawatu Gorge closure won't 'trash The Saddle' as before. There is still a lot of road works but the sections that have been completed indicate that it is going to be a great motorcycling road. For now caution needs to be exercised as the new sections still have various amounts of pea gravel in places whilst other areas are awaiting attention are heavily patched. The same caution needed to be taken for our ride over Valley Road as some of us had our rear ends loose traction over a very slippery piece of shiny tar not too far from the Lookout. Maybe someone or something was looking after us?
It wasn't long before we arrived at Manfeild to the sound of motorcycles making there way around the race track. As one would expect it was here we found many like minded 'brethren'.  It was great to see fellow Blue Hazers Tim and Alan out on the track. Tim was out on his CBR600 and had had his TD2 running the previous day.  Alan was out on his Suzuki RG500 and filling the air with that lovely square four two stroke sound. Alan has been involved in motorcycles and motorcycling all his life and he is well known for not only prowess on the track over the years, but also for his abilities as a mechanic and in particular his talent with the art of two stroke motorcycle engineering. He could be likened to a 'priest', maybe even a 'high priest'  of such things and I think it was no mistake that
the camera was able to record him giving his blessing to Chappys S2a! I am sure all of our bikes were included in this as it was an appropriate conclusion to an excellent Sunday morning. Lets hope for many more!
Bless you all!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Hampton Downs 2016

“That’s one of your own racing”

A special Hampton Downs pilgrimage this year as three of our own were racing. Joining Alan DL (a regular competitor) were Dion and Tim. It’s some commitment in time and money to participate, and judging by the smiles it was well worth it.
For the rest of us it was the journey up and back as much as the day(s) at the track. Missing from the regular crew were Kim and Dave T, but joining us at Arrow Lodge were Bruce, Ken, and Barry from Wellington.





Leaving from Palmerston North for the ride up on Saturday were Ian (VX800), Bruce A (VFR750), and Alan (VFR800). We met Bruce S (Kawasaki ZX10) at Sanson and made our way to Whanganui and up to Raetihi on the Parapara Rd. Rich took the Ute up leaving earlier. The Wellington contingent rode up Friday, and were at the track Saturday. Bruce on his GT750L, Barry on the Yamaha XS1.1 (for sale at the track), and Ken on a Kawasaki 650 twin.



After a good lunch at the Angel Louise Café in Raetihi we climbed to National Park and then down to Taumarunui, Te Kuiti, Otorohanga, and the back road through Pirongia, Whatawhata, and Te Kowhai to Ngaruawahia.


Not a drop of rain and little wind made for a very pleasant ride. Once unpacked at Arrow Lodge and with a couple of snorts under the belt, we all headed over to the RSA for a beer and a meal. Great value as always. Some watched the rugby and some of us just had a catch up. The Arrow Lodge has new owners - very nice people who made us most welcome. The units are clean are being upgraded as finance permits. About to be renamed as the River Bed as it’s on the banks of the Waikato River opposite Turangawaewae Marae.







Next morning it was off to the track after a cooked breakfast at the Hopin Stopin Café. Not as many bikes parked up at the track as last year and the field of racers looked to be down a bit on numbers. The day was fine and a bit of breeze kept the temperature pleasant. We soon found Tim and Dion prepping bikes with Barry helping Tim fit a set of flat slides to the CBR600.







 It was great watching the 3 of them on the track. Alan’s Suzuki XR14 has a sound like no other on the track and is always beautifully presented. In addition to the CBR Tim also brought up his TZ350, which we unfortunately didn’t see running. It’s another interesting old race bike. Dion had the NSR250 running perfectly and pulling its 12000 rpm redline in 6th gear on the front straight. Certainly looked fast from behind the fence.






























Racing finished at 3pm and we helped Tim and Dion pack up and load the bikes before heading back to Ngaruawahia. The racers left for Palmerston North from the track.

Another meal was enjoyed at the RSA before a few drinks in one of the units (no point in freighting ½ bottles home) with great and interesting stories told, and much swinging of the lantern as the night progressed. We heard that the ships cook throws his arms up in horror whenever he sees Barry approaching the gang plank, in the knowledge he will not have enough food on board. This is quite believable – picture Barry eating cold pies, boiled eggs, and left over coleslaw for breakfast the following morning!  Truly a human gannet.

After breakfast in town we made for home taking the same route as we came up on. This works well as it gives different sets of corners when coming from the opposite direction. We lost Bruce S for a while as he ventured ahead and missed a turn off. We stopped for coffee in Taumaranui where Ken joined us, and then on to Raetihi and lunch at the Angel Louise Café, at which point Bruce caught up. Down the Parapara Road and the back way to Fordell.  Everyone was starting to feel the effects of time in the saddle and it was a long ¾ hour home. Ken then continuing his ride, over the track and down through Wairarapa – a proper biker!

The trip meter on the VFR showed 910 km, so a good weekends riding. No breakdowns or problems with any of the bikes (something to be said for the more modern bikes). Given the lesser turnout it will be interesting to see if this event is held next year. If not it’s a great weekend away on the bikes and a good get together.