Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Cheaper Way to Hunterville?

One of the interesting things about designing your rides around loops is that we end up looping in the same direction. One of our favourite loops is the Apiti loop where we always seem to go up the Pohangina Valley and return usually through Kimbolton. Last Sunday saw seven of us lining up at Manawatu Motorcycles with a consensus around a ride to Hunterville as the return destination. If you look through this blog Hunterville has been a popular destination with us for years. Yesterday was different though. We decided to reverse our usual rotation! This itinerary had us heading out of town via Rangitikei Line towards our first turnoff at Mount Stewart. After taking some video on the departure I had to do some catching up and it wasn't difficult to find the route the crew took out of town as the little telltale cloud of smoke was only just beginning to dissipate at the town boundary.  It was Paul d on his H2, Rich on his T500 and Sir Al on his Bighorn who were supplying the haze. Nice to see Paul out on the H2 and Sir Al on the H2s younger sibling Bighorn. Rounding out the two strokers was Kim on his very well sorted 3XV. How sorted? Try over 60mpg from its last run to Pongaroa! Bruce had his GSXR400 out for another spin and with the suspension work done on it a few twisty were certainly in order. Ian's trusty VX800 was certainly up for a few twisties as well.
Mount Stewart to Halcombe has a nice mixture of corners and straights, then onto the main drag to our back road loops that had us once again enjoying yet again a nice mixture of corners and more open sections that let the two strokes have a bit of a blowout. All to soon we arrived in Hunterville for refreshments outside in the lovely sunny weather. The consensus was it was like riding on a whole new road with a tinge of familiarity. Well worth the effort and a 'must do again ride'.
It was very noticeable the large number of motorcycles making their way down the main drag (State Highway One). The majority were of a 'mature' age and on some relatively expensive machinery. With the high number of motorcycle fatalities this summer it would seem that one of the reasons could be the number of motorcyclists now on the road and the distances they have covered. Our group certainly has a very cautious approach to our riding with the only reason anyone not making it home being a breakdown. Some of the stories we hear about other groups and individuals riding habits certainly leaves a lot to be desired. We all know your chances of having an accident and injury are considerably greater on a motorcycle so the the basic message is don't be a 'dick' on your bike!
After that little rant I am pleased to report that the return route via Vinegar Hill was covered safely with our only stop being at Stormy Point for a photo op. It has a great vista looking up towards the mountains across the Rangitikei countryside. The earthquake and volcanicly tortured landscape certainly makes for some great motorcycling roads! We then continued on our reverse route through Makino Road and then to Colyton and Taonui.
All to soon Bunnythorpe arrived and from there we made our separate ways home. A little later on Sir Al sent a text that he made it home on the one tank of petrol with Richard also finding the same. After checking their tanks at Hunterville none of the strokers felt the need to top up. I am sure the finger crossing began on the outskirts of Feilding as certain people looked for the tell tale splutter and dash to Feilding Northend BP? Maybe the savings in petrol could buy an extra custard square? Not good for the power to weight ratio though which might negate the savings!
All in all another great ride on our 'mature and maturing' sicles. We are very lucky to have the variety of excellent motorcycle roads at our disposal around here and with the wonderful weather we have had lately maybe we should go and do some more reverse loops!
Role on next weekend.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Show us your pinky!

There are those who watch our group of 'motorcycle heritage enthusiasts' who think that our reason for 'being' is to sample a range of cafes in the region. Whilst we can pass comment on a wide and varied range of eateries there are a range of reasons we get out as a group and wander around the countryside. Last Sunday saw a smallish group of us take to the roads in the southwest of our region. Whilst much was on over the ranges in Tararua with the motocross and Wheels with Attitude get together in Dannivegas and Woodville, our humble group decided on a quieter time in the Manawatu. Ably led by Warren on his GT380 we followed his spannies out of town towards Taikorea. His many years as a telecommunications technician have certainly given him a great knowledge of the roading network in the region and as whistled along the Manawatu plains he was able to find us a surprisingly good range of corners to enjoy. Also along for the run today was Terry on his armchair like Honda GL500 Wing. It looks like he has sorted out some of the issues with starting and it purred along showing some good pace at times. Sir Al brought out his VFR800 for a play and after last weekends run to Pongaroa on his Kawasaki 350 Bighorn I am sure it was a far more relaxing ride. Bruce S rode his Aprilia RS250 up from Levin he appreciated finding out from Warren a few more interesting roads closer to home. Yours truely on the XJ750 certainly enjoyed the cooling effect of 100kmph+.
In no time at all Warren had us parking alongside the Horsemans Cafe in Shannon. The heat by this stage was getting very intense and inspite of this hot coffees and tea were ordered alongside cafe staples like carrot cake, custard squares and quiche! The large lattes were handled with practiced 'pinky' ease. One of the conversation around the table reflected on how this particular ride across the plains provides such a different riding experience to our usual ones. Having such large vista gives you a grander appreciation of the countryside we ride through with the Ruahine Ranges to the north east, Tararua Ranges to the south and on a good day Mount Ruapehu and Taranaki to the north. Being on a motorcycle through this countryside is a unique experience as you take in not only the sights but also the sounds and smells. It is very visceral and sharing with others who enjoy experiencing it in this way creates a special pool of memories and yes that does include the cafes we stop at as well!
 With the food and beverages despatched we reluctantly put our gear back on for the ride home. Bruce disappeared south to Levin and the rest of us made our way back to Palmy via Tokomaru. With Warren and Sir Al leading the way the sight of Sir Al heading the opposite way and Warrens 380 pulled up with a side cover off on Fitzherbert Ave didn't bode well. Long story short, Warrens gear change lever fell off and Sir Al thought he knew where it was because something flicked up and nearly nailed him as he was following him! He thought it was road debris and it didn't take him long to find it! A lot of luck all round! With the side cover off it was nice to see an adequate supply of two stroke oil in it. eh Warren! Also nice to not have to go all the way home in second gear!
It was an unexpected way to complete the ride, but like all these incidents it adds to our unique pool of shared experiences. It is also adding to the list of of suitable candidates for the 'Oh Shit Award'. Time to organise a Blue Haze BBQ!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Not Another Damn Corner!

It has been a while since I have ventured over the hill and pointed the sycle in an easterly direction. The arrival of Sir Als email suggesting part of Wellington Anniversary weekend be spent swinging through a few bends in the Tararua district certainly got my attention as well a few others. The forecast fine weather and 27 degrees certainly spurred interest with a dozen bikes lining up outside Manawatu Motorcycles. The lunchtime destination of the Pongaroa Hotel is always a popular choice with some great hospitality at very reasonable prices with excellent facilities. The other huge plus as a destination is the recent fuel pumps that have been installed with the support of the local community. If you are riding some of the popular Blue Haze two strokes their limited fuel capacity can be rather challenging at times so fuel facilities take on some importance. Some might be unkind to say that the problem isn't a capacity issue but more one of consumption! The hilly and windy nature of the countryside also requires a lot of on and off throttle which can also challenge fuel use. All part of the riding old two strokes experience I say!
It was an interesting mixture of 12 bikes and riders who lined up on Andrew Young street outside Manawatu Motorcycles. Some of the older bikes were early seventies two strokes with Rich on his T500, Paul d out on his GT750 and Sir Al out on the now very 'trusty' Bighorn Kawasaki. Kim d had his Yamaha 3XV (Nickname: The Radio Station), with Bruce A on his lovely VFR750, Ian on his VX800, Bruce S on his GSXR 400, John on his 675 Speed Triple and your truly on the XJ750. It was great to have the Classic lads along for a spin as well. Graeme was on his 1200 Bonnie,  Ray on his Triumph 800 speed triple and eventually Paul on his Guzzi 850! (Caught up with us in Pongaroa) The trip out of town was was uneventful except for the usual cloud of blue haze as we crossed the town/country divide as we headed up and over the Pahiatua Track to our first stop at Mangamaire.
With all our machinery running as intended we made our way down State Highway Two towards the Rongomai turnoff and headed into the gnarly Tararua countryside heading for Route 52.
It certainly was gnarly with a steady flow of corners that reqired plenty of attention. There was ample evidence of the quake but nothing like it was a while ago with cracks and level changes that really tested your wits and suspension. Bruce S was out the front by this stage and setting a suitably quick but cautious pace that kept us together as we snaked our way through the countryside. The Alfredton intersection arrived relatively quickly and had us up Route 52 towards our lunchtime destination. There are some lovely climbs up hills and runs through valleys as the road follows streams. Our next stop was at Tiraumea where we all checked in and after a quick natter we headed off for our lunch stop at Pongaroa.
It had been nearly two hours since we left Palmy and the lads were very parched. We could feel the temperature rising as the ride progressed so the sight of the pub was a very welcome one. It looked as though a few others were seeking beverages as well with what looked like an interesting mixture of locals and loopies (tourists). Lining up to place our orders had me wondering how the kitchen would cope with the influx, but the quick arrival of our first meals was impressive. And what meals they were! The photo of Bruce and John hoeing into them says it all. Our group was relatively large and they certainly did a good job of getting all our meals out to us without too much waiting. If you are planning on going to Pongaroa for lunch, make sure you have a light breakfast!
Once our meals had a chance to semi digest we headed back out to the bikes where the we were given two choices as to how we wanted to complete the 'loop' back to Palmy. One was back through Pahiatua over the Puketoi Range or the longer way back on Route 52 through Dannevirke. Having not traveled the latter I opted for the longer way. In the meantime Rich and Sir Al made the most of fuel pumps and topped up. Be warned that they only have diesel and 91 which isn't a problem for most, but many a two stroke owner prefers 95 octane and above and especially on a hot day. With the fueling completed and choices made we headed out of town into what was proving to be a very warm afternoon.
We knew it was getting very hot as the road was beginning to melt. Trying to avoid the 'pools' of tar certainly became important as our front ends began 'squidging' out in places and Sir Al certainly set a suitably safe pace for the conditions. This road would certainly be a lot more fun in cooler temperatures. We eventually arrived in Dannevirke where the air cooled two strokers made a beeline for the 98 octane pumps. Whilst they were filling up the rest of the troops got stuck into some drinks and found some shade. It really was a very hot day. In the meantime another one of the Blue Haze crew who hadn't come on the ride appeared at a pump on his Suzuki Freewind. Brian was loaded down with a backpack and some very long flippers overhanging his tail light. He was heading out to Akitio for an afternoon dive and planning on a late seafood dinner back in Feilding. For some reason he didn't respond to our enquiries as to his ETA back home with the paua and crayfish!
Our last leg home involved doing our best to avoid the main highway south by travelling back along the Top Grass Road route that brings you out just before Woodville and the Saddle Road. It was a straightforward run through to the Saddle Road where we bid farewell to some of the crew who decided to enter Palmy via the Pahiatua Track. Our run over the Saddle was pleasant with not to much traffic. Everyone's thoughts are for a few years time when the new 'gorge route' goes through and we can have our 'minimal traffic' Saddle Road back with its wonderful new surface. It will be an absolute hoot! Unfortunately they may decide on a much modified Saddle Road as the main route! (Sigh)
It was a great day out and for me one of those rides I will carry in my memory for some time. We are very lucky to live in a region where so many great rides are close to hand with many of them suitable for running the range of older bikes we enjoy using. From Sir Al riding his air cooled 1974 single cylinder 350 trail bike through to Graham on his 2017 Triumph Bonneville the day provided more than enough riding pleasure for everyone. Can't wait for our next run. Next Sunday I believe!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

It’s all torque

Another stunning December day and little encouragement was needed for 6 keen riders to get together for a Sunday ride.

What was interesting was that it was all 4-strokes. Talk about torque! From the 70s there was Dave’s CB750 and John’s BMW 600, from the 80s Dave’s GSX1100, the 90s Ian’s VX and my VFR, and the modern was Graham’s Bonnie.

We headed up to Apiti via Pohangina East, and then to Rangiwahia around the ‘dress circle’. From Rangi it was through to Mangawheka where we stopped for a bite of lunch at the Papa Cliff CafĂ©.

Good kai and coffee, and a particularly good iced coffee!

After lunch we followed the Harley route (SH1) down to Hunterville, then to Halcome via our usual back roads and home by way of Dave’s to share a much appreciated ice cold beer. It doesn’t get any better than that; hundreds of corners, a dry road, a sunny day with a warm breeze, and good company. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Smoked Fish

At times we all look for any excuse to go for a ride. Especially if we haven't had one for a while and or the weather is looking suitably fine. A couple of weekends ago the call went out to make the most of some fine weather so a small band of us gathered together one Sunday morning at Manawatu Motorcycles looking for a destination. It was good to see Kim finally out on his Radio Station (Yamaha 250 3XV), Ian on his One and Only (Suzuki VX800), Sir Al on his Bighorn (Kawasaki F9) and yours truly on the Secca (Yamaha XJ750 E11).  The consensus was to point our bikes in an easterly direction and around one of our favourite rides, the Rongomai loop. With the Pahiatua Track now a major link to the east we were expecting a lot of traffic, but it wasn't to be. With the closure more attention is being paid to its upkeep and it certainly allows for a more spirited riding style! Kims Radio Station certainly whistled past me at a rate of knots with Sir Al and Ian also enjoying the light traffic and good surface. All too soon we were at the Mangamaire turnoff and heading towards State Highway Two through some windy road. Caution is a good idea along this stretch of road as it has some deceptive corners and it is a relatively narrow but busy road. Our first stop at Managmaire attests to this with a resident having set up a fence with motorcycle helmets hanging off it. A not so subtle reminder!
After a quick chat we were on our way again and making our way down SH 2 towards turnoff to Rongomai. Once back on our B road we started enjoying the lovely sinuous road as it made its way to Mangaone Valley Road. This is a more open road where you can sit back a little and enjoy the countryside experience with its sights, sounds and smells. As we reached the end of the valley the curves tighten up which are accompanied by some superb cambers. A lot of fun that soon ends as we crest the hill at the back of Pahiatua. We headed into town with the Black Stump cafe as our preferred destination. You have to take your chances on it being open and luckily for us it was. A mixture of light beers,tea coffee, muffins and Caesar salads arrived at our table and were very quickly consumed. After a good discussion on important things like the renaissance of the two stroke our next decision was a big one. We either go back over the Track or battle the masses over the Saddle Road. The decision was made to not fight the masses, but to retrace our steps over the less travelled track.
Returning to our bikes and going through the start up routine Kims usual sad humour was particularly good. (Well relatively good!) He observed Sir Al starting up the mighty Bighorn directly outside the open front door of the local Fish and Chip shop and commented on the fact that the locals would be getting smoked fish on the menu that day! The run back over the Track saw a definite increase in traffic compared to earlier in the day but we still managed to give the bikes a final workout before we got back into town.
It was a great ride and it was pleasing to see how well all the bikes performed. Ians VX certainly has a good turn of speed and the vee twin engine and shaft drive certainly make for quick trouble free riding. Nice to see that Kim has finally got the gremlins sorted out in the 3XV. No easy task. For a two stroke it is a rather complicated piece of machinery but worth the trouble with some claiming it as the ultimate sports two stroke. Sir Al on the Bighorn is now showing confidence in the bike after his initial time sorting it out.  He is now punting it through the corners more like a sports bike than a forty plus year old trail bike. Maybe it is the Klemm Vintage Racing web site? These guys have been road racing Bighorns very successfully from the year dot and know every trick in the book. He is certainly getting a lot more pleasure out of it than the TS400 he has recently passed on!

Monday, November 13, 2017

October End of Month Ride + Classic Racing @ Manfeild

Although we had a smaller turnout than usual for our October end of month ride our visit to Manfeild at the conclusion of our cafe run certainly went some ways to explaining this! Four of us gathered at Manawatu Motorcycles with the morning promising some lovely riding and racing weather. The forecast for showers later on the day appeared to be a distant possibility as Dave on his GSX1100, Warren on his GT380, Bruce S on his Aprilia RS250 and yours truly on  the XJ750 headed off towards Feilding on a short ride via Ashhurst, Valley Road, Colyton and to a cafe in Feilding. It was great to see Dave out and about again. No more weekend work so free to come on a few rides. Excellent!
Our run out to Ashhurst flowed with the traffic making its way to the Saddle Road and instead of turning east through the village to join the convoy to Hawkes Bay we continued on in a northerly direction. The Valley Road turnoff soon appeared and sitting in behind Warren and the 380 going up the hill was music to my ears, The spannies were well into the powerband and Warren and Bruce S wasted no time winding their way down the valley towards Colyton. Dave sat in behind me for a while and then gave the GSX a fistful of throttle and set off after Warren and Bruce. It certainly has a great turn of speed. All too soon we were turning off at Colyton and heading for Feilding where we parked up outside the Essence Cafe and Bar.
After a great cuppa and some nourishment the sounds of motorcycles at Manfeild beckoned us and we were soon heading through the pits to our usual parking spot beside the pit stands. Cruising through the pits it was easy to see that this was a very well supported meeting. The New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register certainly know how organise and run a great race meeting. 
Great to see the Blue Haze Racing team in full attendance with Dion on his NSR, Tim racing his CBR600 and TDR 350 and Alan on his RG500. The guys were ably assisted by their pit crew/managers Kim and Paul making sure everything was in order. It was also good to see Pete and Chris giving the XR Honda an outing with Chris certainly surprising many with his turn of speed on the one lung versus two or more for the rest.
Wandering around the pits one was certainly struck by not only the number of bikes, but also the variety. From Vincents through to TZ750 Yamahas and everything in between. Some had great racing patina whilst others were immaculately presented in period livery. The smell and sound of two strokes was particularly appreciated by some of us where watching MotoGP isn't quite the same with the two strokes long gone.
We managed to watch a few races and Dions efforts were rewarded with a close encounter of the tarmac kind. He was a lucky lad with no injuries and very little damage to the the bike. It certainly hasn't dampened his enthusiasm! Luckily I managed to capture it on video and it maybe useful for training and development. It was interesting talking to Dion about how he has managed to slash eight seconds off his lap time since he started racing last year.  The improvements are now in smaller increments which you really need to work hard for: preferably not falling off in the process! It has been interesting watching how our group of enthusiasts have changed over the years. For some of us we still enjoy our time out on the road whilst for others they get into other areas of motorcycling as well. Bruce S is making noises about giving it a go. Good on him. Maybe I should get the XJ out there! I can't recall seeing one out on the track in a long time. (if ever?)
If we include our Manfeild members in our turnout numbers, then we get to nine. Not too bad a tally!