Friday, March 25, 2016

VJMC 2016 National Rally

The long awaited South Island VJMC rally was held over the weekend of 11, 12, and 13th March in Nelson.

The Blue Haze headed out of town midday Friday with an uneventful ride (for all but one) to join the Awatere rail Ferry in Wellington. There were 9 of us with another 6 having taken earlier sailings. We were just on the end of a Southerly storm and the sailing was delayed waiting for the ship to battle its way back to Wellington. Once on the water it wasn’t that bad although a couple of our crew turned a whiter shade of pale!

Terry fills a plastic bottle with petrol allowing Dion to get the last 2 kms to Wellington Terminal.

We comprised two Kawasaki triples (400 Paul & 750 Alan), Suzuki VX800 (Ian), Suzuki RGV250 (Dion), Yamaha RZ250 (Kim), Honda SilverWing (Terry), Honda CBR600 (Bruce S), BMW GS650 (Rich), and a Honda GoldWing 1800 (Guy).

Due to the late start from Wellington we arrived into Picton about 7pm. We filled up and made our way around Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock. Night was descending and leading the way on the H2 became a challenging proposition. Fortunately Ian realised I was struggling and took the lead, illuminating the path with the VX. We arrived at Tahunanui Holiday Park Nelson around 9pm meeting up with Dave (CB750) from Feilding, and Barry (Kawasaki A7), Bruce (GT750K), and Ken (RD350) from Wellington.

Next morning dawned warm and sunny in true Nelson style. The Tahuna Camp is huge and we shared motel style units which were very well presented. An interesting feature of the camp was that it lay directly below the airport flight path. Aircraft passed very low on approach giving quite a different view. This included a vintage DC3. This was also our first look at the bikes of our friends from the CJMC Christchurch, and the wider VJMC group form all over the country.

We split into groups for the morning with some opting to go into town to the bike museum, and others riding over to Motueka and on to Takaka. Ian, Bruce and I decided to go out to Kaiteriteri.

Both Bruce and I had spent many a happy holiday there in younger days, so it’s good to go back for a look at what was once one of NZs best kept secrets. On the way back Bruce and I swapped bikes. The GT750K complete with chambers, is silky smooth and far less manic than the H2. A bit more of a handful on the tighter stuff, but really came into its own on the trip back to Nelson; a true Grand Tourer.

Late afternoon was show & shine time and the judging of the bikes. 42 bikes in total. They made a good display parked on the lawn at the front of the units, although we were the only ones to see them.

After the voting was over it was time for a quick snort, a few yarns, then off to the RSA for a meal. A good feed for the lads, then back to the main residence for the prize giving. Everyone was a winner although some of the newbies got a little more than they had bargained for! Ian was the only one of our crew to pick up a gong – Best Suzuki for his rather immaculate VX800.

Much to my horror Ross Charlton won the whisky raffle with the ticket between the two numbers I had invested in! To his credit he whipped the top off.

Sunday morning was a relaxed start and we departed the rally for the West Coast in a couple of groups. We had a very pleasant ride out through Wakefield and down to Murchison and a stop for coffee and time for those of us late leaving to catch up.

The Buller Gorge is a great ride complete with mobile chicanes in the shape of camper vans – the scourge of the South! Through Inangahua Junction – famous for a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in 1968 – and down to the Westport turnoff and a really excellent road out to the coast. We filled up in Westport and had a quick feed-at-the-hoof at the service station.

I took this chance to re-route the front pannier strap on the H2 from on top of the seat to the frame rails. The bags didn’t sit well but it made a 100% improvement in seating comfort. Have to find a better luggage solution.

The next leg was down to Punakaiki (pancake rocks) and a stop for coffee. The roads down the coast are unbelievably good and proper biker’s roads. Traffic is reasonably sparse and surface condition of the blacktop is top notch. PC Plod was nowhere to be seen. Nirvana.

The ride down from Punakaiki to Greymouth was completed at a brisk pace and we arrived saddle sore but euphoric. A whisky well earned. We stayed in motel style units at the Kiwi Holiday Park a couple of km south of the township. We were joined here by Bruce and Russell on their BMW GS650s (our legal representation). Linda arranged to shuttle us to and from the Paroa Hotel for the evening meal. Food was excellent and included whitebait fritters (with more whitebait in them than I’ve seen since 1975) and plenty to drink. A few more drinks and a bit of a natter back at base before we turned in.

The next morning we drifted off to town for breakfast. Dion, Kim, Ian and I went to McDonalds (it’s called style). The old bikes created a bit of interest and as we gassed up a guy from across the road came over to talk bikes, and Kawasaki triples. As we left, three of them stood on the opposite pavement watching and waving. One bore an uncanny resemblance to Dusty Hill (ZZ Top). Ian, PC, Guy, Terry, Dave and I went off the beaten track to Blackball and stopped for a couple of photos outside the Blackball Hilton. Seemed to me to be a snapshot of 1960s West Coast.

From there on almost deserted roads we went through to Ikamatua and back on SH7 to Reefton for coffee and a bite to eat with the rest of the crew.

After a break it was on to Springs Junction. Another magnificent road which weaves its way through southland Beech forest. Cool dense oxygen rich air – just what the doctor ordered for a 70's 2-stroke! A stop for petrol at Springs Junction and on to the Lewis Pass.

It was as good as I remembered it from 2010; a snaking road through great scenery with only the odd tin-top and mobile chicane to impede progress. Once the pass is crested the temperature lifts and the surroundings gradually turn brown and dry. We stopped at Culverden for petrol and lunch in the shade. Noticeably warmer on the East coast.

From Culverden we followed the inland road to Kaikoura. This road is an interesting mix of open and tight corners. We slowly spread out and towards the end we passed Barry and others parked on the side of the road. Carried on assuming they would catch up. Turned out the A7 had holed a piston. With the necessary alterations made he continued, now riding a single cylinder 175 A7.

We stayed at Barnacle Bill’s self-contained accommodation on the outskirts of Kaikoura. An immaculately presented cottage and lodge with plenty of room for the bikes and the 14 of us and excellent value at $40 per head. Liz (the owner) was most helpful and made the large garage and workshop available to Barry to work on the A7. 

Now most of us might be a little daunted at the prospect of a holed piston and 200 km to ride home. Not a problem if you’ve brought a spare piston with you (note to self) along with two engineers and a toolmaker. Barrel off, piston changed, problem sorted – different sized jets in the carbs being the culprit. Barry assured us it was nothing to do with riding it in Grand Prix mode for most of the trip!

That night we were ferried into town to The Whaler pub for a night of drinking, eating, telling lies and great hilarity. Back at the cottage we polished off our supply of grog, then called it a night.

Next morning we packed and went into town in groups for breakfast, and eventually headed up the coast. More traffic than the West Coast but equally beautiful scenery and we maintained a steady pace to reach Blenheim with plenty of time to spare. Rich went out to the aerodrome to check out the WW1 fighter collection and we parked up for a coffee, then on to Picton. Here we caught up with Terry who was having ignition barrel problems causing the bike to cut out intermittently. Temporary repairs were made with cable ties and electrical tape, which managed to see him home.

The crossing home was on the Kaitaki and in much calmer seas. This is a spacious and comfortable ship and we were very lucky to be given a tour of the engine room by Bruce and Barry, both senior Engineers with Interislander. Four straight 8 turbo-charged, intercooled diesels that are 2 floors high, two in a line driving two shafts to variable pitch propellers. Everything on a huge scale and hot and noisy, it would be a challenging working environment in rough seas. The engine room of a ship is somewhere most people never get to see, so a big thank you to Bruce and Barry.

Bruce and Barry gave us a guided tour of the ferry. Absolutely amazing and can get a small idea at how knowledgeable these guys are and what they do to keep the ferry running 24/7

We exited the Wellington terminal straight into rush hour traffic. This flowed quite well until reaching Pukerua Bay, and was then bumper-to-bumper until leaving Paraparaumu. The only way through was to lane split where possible and use both the left and the right sides of the road to make progress. We slowly spread out and it rained on and off. Darkness fell and I ended up following a car from Shannon letting it illuminate the way.

The only bike to have a major problem on the way home was Dion's RGV with a broken throttle cable. Fortunately only 40 mins from home. It could have been anywhere along the way, so a bit lucky really.

And that was our trip. 1389 km for the H2. More or less for others. Things learned; lights are useful – fit an H4 Halogen in place of the old candle holder (as Bruce has done with his GT750). Always carry a spare piston. Comfort is important – discomfort steals your concentration. Always have a get home plan because you never know with old bikes.

And on behalf of our group a really big Thank You to Judy, Angela, and Ross for all of their work organising this rally. This included going to Nelson early to buy and pack our breakfasts. Another successful rally enjoyed by all. Back to the North Island for next years rally.

Barry doing what he loves, tweaking bikes :)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Its the Sound Stupid!

Why is it we devote large proportion of time and expense to old pieces of metal and plastic that should have long ago been recycled into cellphones, flowerpots and garden ornaments? We tell our significant others about there investment value and how we are making a significant contribution to the heritage of our country. Whilst this is all very true maybe there is a more basic reason. It makes us feel human!
As parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties we take great pleasure in seeing little people experiencing new things in the world. The first ice cream, touching snow for the first time and watching the little persons head follow that two wheeled machine that just went past. As we get older some say we gradually revert back to being a child (Some more rapidly than others. As can be seen on the video!) and we start to treasure those memories from the past. Rekindling those memories is best experienced through our senses and whilst putting the video together for this post it was sound of an H2 on song that put a smile on my dial! The sound of a Kawasaki triple is so very unique. Watching and hearing Sir Al punting one of these through our countryside and hearing two of them together as he followed Paul D on his reminds us of why we love these old machines. It is these visceral experiences that we get from restoring and then riding them that makes us fell human. If it also means reverting back to our younger selves so be it!
Enough ruminations, the sound thing was definitely a nice way to frame the ride we had in late January with an assortment of bikes out for a spin. We certainly encourage and enjoy a 'broad church' on our rides and great to have a variety of 'sounds' along. Alan and Bruce came up from the Horowhenua on two very different types of machinery. Alan on his lovely cafed R100 that just burbles along whilst Bruce was on his frantic sounding CBR600. Paul turned up on his bright white Guzzi that loops along with that lovely tappety sound unique to them. Terrys GL700 was another take on the across the frame v configuration with that same Guzzi sound minus the tappets and a little more subdued in the exhaust note. The V theme was continued with Bruce Andrews VF750. It is a unique sound that many of us heard for the first time in the early eighties and has become an integral part of our motorcycling experience ever since. The XJ750 is very much an underrated motorcycle and often called in a derogatory manner a UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle). Most bikes UJMs ended up with four into ones so the fact that it still has standard pipes gives it that nice muted four cylinder sound typical of this genre of bikes. Ians very busy GS450 rounds out the four strokes with its chromed cam caps and rustling top end pumping out that very revvy twin cylinder bark through its cycleworks two into one.
Our trip around the Apiti loop certainly mixed together this cacophony of sounds as we made our way through the countryside. With stops along the way at Cheltenham  Hill, Kimbolton and Totara Reserve we finally 'orchestrated' (yes I know, very corny) our way into the Fusion Cafe in Ashhurst.
What did we take away from our time on the road? The sights, the smells and yes those wonderful sounds still ringing in our ears and that wonderful feeling to be alive and feel human!

PS. No apologies for the extended play video. Its not for now, but when we are all older and retro retro and have plenty of time to remember our Golden Summers together on the road!