Monday, July 31, 2017

Perfect Winters Day

A brisk morning with the sun shining and dry roads provided ideal conditions for our end-of-month ride for July. And perhaps because of this we had 12 riders on the starting grid at Manawatu Motorcycles. A really good turn out for a winter ride.

Bikes ranged from Bruce and Ian’s Suzuki GSX-R 1100s; Bruce having the first ’86 model and Ian the last of the air/oil cooled Gixxer, to my ’74 Kawasaki 350 trail-bike (at each end of the performance scale). In between there were 2 BMWs (a boxer and a Brick), a Honda CB750, RD400, Honda NSR, T500, Yamaha XT600,  Triumph triple, and a Moto Guzzi Le Mans.

We decided on the Rongomai Loop and once off the busy Pahiatua Track there wasn’t much traffic and the roads were mostly dry. It was clear there had been quite a bit of flooding out the back of Pahiatua evidenced by dry sediment across the road in places. There had also been some recent cattle movements (in more ways than one!) leaving quite a bit of the road littered requiring some defensive riding. 

A quick stop was taken at Pahiatua to top up the trail-bike (to be on the safe side while fuel usage was established) before heading to Balance Cafe for a coffee and lunch. We were keen to support this establishment in light of the Gorge closure, and we weren’t the only ones as the place was packed.

After a very pleasant stop, we made our way over the Saddle Road to Ashhurst and home. Sadly the Saddle Road is being wrecked despite best efforts of the roading crews. At one point on the climb we caught a tanker crawling uphill at about 30 kph. Great to be on a bike and able to squeeze past. The last major Gorge closure was 2012, so the roading planners have had 5 years to create a workable alternate route and it appears they have failed. I think we all feel for those whose Ashhurst homes now line a state highway

Only problem suffered was a flat tyre on John’s BMW. None of us had a tyre Pando on board, so the bike was chained up and Dave gave John a lift home to collect the trailer. 

The 350 Kawasaki averaged 45 mpg travelling between an indicated 60 and 70 mph, so quite some improvement on the TS400’s 19 mpg! This should give a range of 100 miles. Old trail-bikes are great fun to ride, so I hope to be using this one a lot.

Another great day on the road for the Blue Haze crew.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

June End of Month Ride

Winter rides are always fraught with the possibility of a combination of cold, rain wind or occasionally even snow. Our June end of month weather forecast the previous day indicated  a suitable mixture of the above, so expectations for a large turnout for our end of month run were low. The following mornings early rain did not bode well so the rain suit came out just in time to greet the sun as the weather cleared. Heading down to Manawatu Motorcycles on the XJ certainly confirmed the change in weather fortunes and the sight of six and soon to be seven other bikes was an affirming message about the weather for the next few hours. The only big decision to make was where to should any of the promised weather eventuate.
Warren suggested we head out around some of our 'less travelled' roads to the west and see which way the dark clouds were heading. The bikes were fired up and a nice cacophony of four stroke and two stroke sounds echoed around Andrew Young Street as we left. Warren on his 'spannied' Suzuki GT380 leading the way, closely followed by Sir Al on his Honda VFR800, Ian on his Suzuki VX800,  then Dion on his NS400R, Bruce on his Honda VFR750, Kim on his Honda NSR 250 and Rich on his trusty Suzuki T500. We were soon making our way out through the western burbs of Palmerston North. It wasn't long before we were zig zagging our way through the countryside to eventually zag our way to the first stop just before the rise into Bulls.
Warren soon had us on the move again and heading through Bulls with a right turn at the State Highway One and Three crossroads. This had us heading off down Parewanui Road and then on to Raumai Road, Santoft Road and back to the State Highway and finally up to Marton. This was a great little run and one I hadn't been on for a decade or two. Not a lot was happening in Marton so we were able to park up outside the local bakery.  We had a good feed of the usual pastries washed down with tea and coffee.  Whilst we were munching on our food the locals were coming in for their Sunday lunch roast dinners. They looked and smelt very tasty, especially on a cool winters day! Next time. After certain members of the group began reminiscing about Linda Lovelace we decided it was time to refocus on more important seventies and eighties cultural phenomenons; our motorcycles! We then headed back towards Palmerston North over more familiar roads via Halcombe and our final stop at Mount Biggs School. As the troops dribbled off back home those of us who got to hear Warren give the 380 a fistful of gas still have the sweet sound of three expansion chambers disappearing off into the distance ringing in our ears. Ah the memories. That is what this is all about. Rekindling old memories and creating new ones with like minded people. It was certainly worth the time and effort to come out on such a winters day to share that something special you only get from riding heritage motorcycles!      

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mike Peros Classic Japanese Motorcycle Museum

Here is something a little different for the blog with a recommended youtube clip about Mike Peros new Museum in Christchurch. It sounds like it has been very successful and certainly a sign of the times with the growing interest in Japanese Classic Motorcycles. This is a great interview and it certainly conveys Mikes passion for the bikes. I am sure he has more tales to tell of his time racing back in the day. A must see next time one is down in Christchurch.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mrs Windsors Birthday Ride

Queens Birthday Weekend is a great mid year break we all look forward to. Despite the fact that it isn't actually the Queens birthday, no one seems to mind the 'opportunity' to celebrate it. Those of a republican persuasion may need to keep this in mind when contemplating cutting our ties to the motherland. The loss of a holiday would not go down well with many of her 'subjects' and the thought of no opportunity to have a knighthood bestowed on you could be a step too far for many. Sir Al sounds so much better than just Al and Lady Fi sounds so much better than Fi!  Sir John Key is so much better than just John. This ride then was no ordinary ride but one with purpose and meaning. It was pleasing to see the arrival of some like minded 'monarchists' outside Manawatu Motorcycles on Sunday morning.

Whilst the chance of precipitation for the ride was low, the air temperature was also low so our choice of destination required a degree of warmth and that criteria was met by a certain cafe/restaurant in Hunterville. The other criteria it met was for suitably twisty roads to and from. Ian on his VX800 thought it was about one Evening Standard newspaper down the front of your jacket. It actually felt more like a Dominion temperature! Sir Al was on his VFR 800 that he thought would get more than twelve miles out of town. Kim made an appearance on his 'radio station', his Yamaha 250 3XV. It hasn't been seen for a while with a few technical issues. Rich was out on the fuel tap transformed T500. The T500 surging was a thing of the past! Paul was on his booming Moto Guzzi rearing to stretch its long legs and John was making sure the mother country was represented with his sweet Triumph triple and yours truly on the XJ750. A quick stop at BP Rangitikei Street saw Bryan joining us on his recently acquired Suzuki Freewind.

We were soon away from the city limits and much to Sir Als delight he made to Colyton and we were soon making our way around the back of Feilding and heading north up Makino road. Our first stop was at the Cheltenham hill turnoff and much of the conversation was around Bryans new bike. He was impressed with one a while ago and bought his own and it appears it is one of the best 650 adventure singles you can buy. Far more road oriented than the DR with a lower and far more comfortable seat. We were soon on our way towards Vinegar Hill and the lack of traffic allowed us to get into some serious bend swinging. The turn off to Hunterville arrived quickly and after a quick regroup we joined the state Highway one traffic flow heading south. 

The cafe soon appeared as we joined the locals and passers bys for either a late breakfast, morning tea or an early lunch. the locals were certainly popping in to load up on carbs for either a hard day working or more likely hangover assistance! It really is a popular place and a good sign as to the value and quality of the food. Whilst some treated themselves to the world famous Custard 'Rectangles' and pies, John decided he needed a good breakfast. It was huge and tasty and highly recommended at $16.50. Eating this in front of a fire soon had our body temperatures back up and we decided to do our river 'loops' run to avoid most of State Highway One.  
We headed out of Hunterville in an easterly direction towards the Rangitikei River and these loops basically parallel the course of the river. Caution is needed as on any rural road with the usual hazards of animals, farm vehicles, animal 'debris' and due to the time of the year areas of the road that are damp due to being in shadow. The roads are a nice mix of straights, sweepers mixed with some great tight sections. We all made it safely through to rejoin the main drag and the turnoff to Feilding and Halcombe. Some of us took the turnoff to Mount Stewart at Halcombe to fit in a few more corners before we got home. A quick chat at Mount Biggs saw us heading back home with Rich inviting Paul and myself back to his place to check out his latest acquisition and some of his low cost cleaning and refurbishment techniques he has recently developed. I will leave that for Rich to share with us at a later date. His plan for a T500 scrambler looks pretty interesting now he has a frame and running gear! Go Rich! Maybe we will see it next Queens Birthday Weekend?
God save the Queen!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"It started going slower and slower......"

Sunday a week ago was our May end of month ride and although the weather looked a little dodgy the seven of us who turned up at Manawatu Motorcycles knew that the morning would offer up a wonderful jaunt around our region. A run up to Hunterville was decided with much of the discussion around the destination centred on Sir Als latest acquisition. What sort of range did his Kawasaki Bighorn have? Surely he could make it to Hunterville to refuel? If we had taken a sweepstake whoever had the smallest distance would have won; and it wasn't because he ran out of petrol!
The ride began well with Dion on the RG400, John on his Triumph triple (the Rotary is need of serious attention apparently), Ian on his GiXer, Bruce on his TZR, Bryan on his TS185 and yours truly on the XJ set off up Andrew Young Street looking forward to custard squares and a warm fire at our destination. Heading out of town via Rangitikei St saw the usual cloud of blue haze trailing (I am sure the Donald would have been impressed) from the pose of bikes as they passed the town boundary. The metropolis of Bunnythorpe soon passed by with Feilding International Airport indicating our right turn towards Colyton. But then!!

"It started going slower and slower..." Coming up on the parked bikes with Sir Al and the others looking at the bike did not bode well. The pulling of the spark plug revealed an unwelcome aluminium shimer that meant one thing! Calls were made to organise the collection of the bike and the site of Sir Al pushing the bike down the road was a sad ending to his ride for the day. But what about the rest of us? What was left of the morning was ahead of us. Ian's plans were interrupted with a cellphone call to head to Wellington to rescue his son. John was going to hunt down some mates out riding with the Central Districts Touring club. Dion, Bruce and myself decided to head south for a coffee at Shannon and a visit to his shed.

We were now down to three and after skirting the back of Palmy down the Kairanga Bunnythorpe road we headed down Lockwood and Main Drain and Rangiotu Roads and then into Himatangi Block Road. After missing the turn and turning around in a driveway I had a little whoopsie and ended up with the mighty XJ on the ground. Thank goodness Dion was nearby and helped me lift the XJ off the ground. They certainly are heavy beasts and apart from a broken indicator, a small dent in the muffler and my pride we were under way fairly again. The incident certainly makes one think about maybe its time to get one of my lighter bikes back on the road! We were soon coming to the end of the Foxton Shannon Road and parked ourselves up around one of the Shannon cafes. The town and the cafe were certainly very busy with the town becoming more of destination these days rather than a place you pass through.

It was great sitting outside the cafe watching the world go by talking about bikes. It made me think about how great it was to be sitting around the table with a couple of genuine two stroke enthusiasts. Dion and Kim have between them resurrected a number of two strokes including the RG400 Dion was riding. They have now taken it to another place and space by racing  the bikes as well. Bruce has over the years bought and sold a number of bikes, many of them two strokes. His current project is the rejuvenation of what is a very rare bike, a Kawasaki KR1S. Can't wait to see it on the road. A great effort guys and a valuable contribution to our motorcycling heritage. Unfortunately the gas bagging got away on us and we had to return to town without checking out Bruce's garage, although we had a quick swing by Sir Als place to see how the Bighorn was. The screwdriver disappearing down plug hole with the piston at TDC said it all! In spite of this Sir Al is determined to get it back on the road asap!

It certainly was an eventful ride with more stories to be told as a result. Keeping these pesky two strokes on the road is certainly a challenge but great to be part of a crew who value them and put in a lot of time, effort, money and energy to keep them on the road. Roll on next Sunday!

PS. Bryan missed all the action after he ducked into Feilding to change bikes. His ride to and from Hunterville was rather lonely. All good Bryan I have your number now!

Alan kicking over his new purchase. A 1974 Kawasaki 350 Bighorn.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Back on the Road!

Its been a while since I have penned a blog post. Having knee replacement surgery made things like riding a motorcycle a little difficult for a while. Mind you I was able to get on a scooter fairly early in the piece, but whilst easy to get off and on, the staggering power of a 50cc two stroke wears a bit thin after a while and limits ones excursions to the city limits. At least the scooter was called a Katana so I was able to rightly drop the word into motorcycle conversations that indicated I was back on two wheels without revealing its true category! However those who had an interest in old jappas would inevitably ask which model; at which point I would have to confess. So it is nice to finally be back on the mighty XJ and riding beyond the city limits once more.
Last Sunday at around 9:30 saw the gradual gathering of nine motorcycles outside Manawatu Motorcycles on Andrew Young Street. Ian appeared on his newly 're-tyred' GSXR1100 and keen to check them out. Sir Al on his VFR was an early arrival along with Graham on his new 1200cc Bonny, with Dave on his 'owned from new Honda K2 750. Kims chosen bike for the ride was his 89 NSR 250, with Bruce appearing on his ever faithful Yamaha RZ350 and Richard rumbled up on the mighty
T. Rich informed us about a wonderful RD400 he came across on his way to the rendezvous and sure enough that very distinctive RD400 sound was heard coming around the corner. On board was Craig and his daughter Katie who were out for a Sunday morning coffee. Quite a huddle developed around the bike that was in pristine order and recently featured in Olde Bike. You could certainly see why. Craig was keen to come out with us for the first 20 kays or so. The destination for the ride was to be Apiti where great stories were told about the new owners of the tavern and the wonderful menu!
The departure from town was punctuated with Craig adding a few more pounds of air into his tyres at the Caltex station on our way out and we quickly got into the Pohangina Valley 'rhythm' as we headed north into the hills. The temperature had certainly dropped since I was last up this way, but the familiarity with the road certainly helped my cautious confidence return as we made our way through some parts that had some moss come back with the departure of summer. However, the road was in very good condition with very few sections of loose gravel in the corners as is often the case. Our first stop at Totara Park arrived very quickly and it was here that Craig and Katie said goodbye. It was neat to see two generations of a family enjoying motorcycling with Craig telling us Katie has her own 125 dirt bike at home. Cool!  The sound of the RD heading south down the valley was music to our ears. It was also here Sir Al managed to lecture one of the locals on road safety matters. The cat was mildly interested! Soon we were back on the bikes and heading towards our destination half expecting to see a some snow in the great vistas one sees of the Ruahine Ranges as we climbed towards Apiti.
Our arrival at Apiti found the doors at the tavern locked. The custodian soon arrived to open up the premises long after the posted opening time. It appears as though the opening of the duck shooting season was celebrated in style the evening before. The status of the catering was in doubt for a while, but the chef appeared and fired up the kitchen and we he managed to maintain the great food standard from the previous visit. After some great conversations around all manner of topics it was decided to retrace our steps for the ride home. Whilst the road through to Kimbolton includes some great windy parts, the remaining road through to Palmy is not! Our departure was a little distracted by a Victory motorcycle. An amazing piece of 'iron' and with the recent demise of the company the motorcycle world is all the poorer for it.
Doing the reverse rather than the loop has a lot of pluses including knowing the current road conditions and upping the corner count. Not a bad thing!  Our last stop was at the Totara Reserve turnoff where all agreed that it had been a great ride and that the liners and thermals were going to be dug out from the back of the wardrobes. It was great to be out and about again on the XJ in the company of fellow motorcyclists sharing the wonderful world of heritage motorcycling. I certainly missed it.
See you out there!