Welcome to The Old Bloke’s Blog! Well, it's more than just a blog actually; it's a blog combined with general news, things of interest, and smaller items etc. It is, basically, a traditional type blog of things that I've been doing that will, hopefully, be of some interest to the reader. But, as I said, it's more than that; it's also where I put items of interest that I've come across that aren't big enough for a separate article. So don't think that it's all about me! Some of it is, but it's also a newsy kind of thing, relating stories of interest, products I've discovered and so on. It's set out month by month, going down the page - so for the latest entries, scroll down to the bottom. For previous installments in this Blog, just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the button there. I hope you find it interesting!
Click here to go to the front page. Click your BACK button to return to the previous page.
Click here to go to the previous installment of my Blog.
JANUARY 3, 2017. First ride for the year. The forecast was for 90% chance of 1-5mm rain, but it didn't look too bad outside. Forecast predicted rain more likely in the afternoon, so I headed out for a morning ride. Temperature on the coast was 25, on the highlands just under 19. I headed for the highlands (because I felt like riding that way). Probably could've used the wind liner in my summer jacket, as it was a bit cool up on the mountains, but it was okay. A lot of traffic about, and the famous Robertson Pie Shop was packed! (Aren’t people supposed to be back at work now?). A few sprinkles of rain as I left there, and at one point on the way home, but nothing to take notice of. It was a short ride (about 100+km) but enjoyable.
JANUARY 3, 2017. Thanks to Rod who sent me this link to an article on recalls during 2016. There are a lot of them! And Honda leads the way with a total of 6. That is surprising as Honda are generally well-built and reliable. Although more models are being built in Taiwan, so perhaps that is a factor.
JANUARY 7, 2017. I missed out on a ride with some good riding friends today – they were leaving fairly early and I had things to do in the morning. But I got out later in the morning, and it turned into a different kind of ride. I’m a member of a classic car club, and I decided to do a “reconnaissance run” to check out some potential places in the Southern Highlands for runs for our club. I remembered going to the oval in Bundanoon with a car group on one or two occasions, but it was a long time ago. I couldn't remember exactly what was there – whether there were trees to sit under for a picnic (which is what they like to do) etc. So I went to check that out. I also checked the parking at the antique shop at Exeter; which I thought might be good for a visit. (People who like old cars often like old other things!). It’s an interesting place because it isn't high-end stuff, but the sort of thing you look at and say, “We had that when I was a kid!” (Grandpa's Shed near Fitzroy Falls is a fabulous place for that, but there isn't much parking).
Bundanoon Oval was great – lots of shady trees, some table-and-bench type shelters and even BBQs. And toilets. From there I rode back to Exeter and out to Sally's Corner to have a look at a new pie shop – Heatherbrae Pies. It's right across from Macdonalds, the one on the Eastern side on the road from Exeter. I was surprised to learn they've been open since July. I only found out about it recently when someone put a post up on Facebook. There's an FJ ute in there that they've converted to use as a display case for their cakes. Nice decor for a classic car club! I spoke to the owner, who is a really nice guy, and asked if they did bookings: I didn't want 30 or 40 people turning up to find there was nowhere to sit. They don't do bookings, but he said if he knew we were coming he would get extra tables and chairs in, and cordon off a section for us. I can’t recommend the food at this stage, as I just had a cuppa there, but I've heard some good reports, so it’s worth a stop in if you’re down that way. A couple of my riding friends are keen on pies, so we’ll be doing a ride up to there soon! It’s hard to see in the photo, but where I parked was on a very slight slope to the left (my left, the right of the photo). When I came out I found that the side-stand had sunk into the bitumen. Not far, just enough to make an impression in it. Must be still soft and new – it was a warm day, but nowhere near hot enough to melt bitumen! Anyway, then it was back home along the Illawarra highway, getting home about 5.30. It ended up being a good day out, and worthwhile, as our club is going to put on a run to both places.
JANUARY 9, 2017. It was never one of my favourite places (I’m not saying I didn’t like it, it’s just not one of the places I went to), but it was a favourite with many motorcyclists; quite an iconic bikers place actually. I’m talking about the George IV Inn at Picton.
Last year there was a huge storm at Picton, which resulted in the main street going under water; flooding businesses to a height half way up the walls. As sometimes happens in these cases of water damage, the insurance companies often wriggle and squiggle and try to find some way of getting out of meeting their clients’ claims. And this has apparently happened to the George IV. Today they put this post up on their Facebook page. “Many of you have requested updates as to our progress on re- opening. Thank you for your patience to date. “Regrettably the pub’s insurers, Assetinsure, had originally accepted cover for some damage caused by stormwater and overland flow. In reliance upon that position the pub engaged experts to prepare reports on damage and continued to employ staff in anticipation of re-opening. 6 months has now passed since The George closed its doors. We recently completed a claim as requested by the insurers at considerable cost. After receiving the claim the insurer changed its position and denied any liability whatsoever. The result is that The George will now not be in a position to reopen until issues with insurance are resolved. That will inevitably require lengthy & costly legal proceedings. As a consequence of the insurers position we have had no option but to bring all employees contracts to an end. We wish to thank Brett & Peta as well as the kitchen team for their patience, support and loyalty. The set backs to The George come as a significant blow to us and indeed the community. But for the actions of the insurer things could have been handled very differently and we would be operating today. We appreciate the huge support we have received from you all and we will definitely keep you posted. Please know that we will keep fighting this to the end.” Insurance companies!! I have my own gripe (happened many years ago) about some insurance companies! (I emphasise “some”, because I’ve also had instances of insurance companies being great to deal with and generous with their settlements of claims). In this case though, they are affecting the livelihood of several people, and basically shutting-down a business with a long and rich heritage in the Picton area. Shame on them!!!
JANUARY 12, 2017. I received the latest copy of Australian Road Rider magazine yesterday. This is the first one with the new Editor, Greg Leech. As regular readers of the magazine would know, former editor Mick Matheson hung up his editorial typewriter (well, computer!) last issue; reportedly to concentrate on his video-production business. Greg Leech has been around bike magazines for years, and I became familiar with his writing when he was editor of Motorcycle Trader. He’s also worked at AMCN, and others. I think he will do a good job, keeping the magazine relevant to its readership and maintaining the style of magazine it is. It’s a big role, as the magazine is one of the best selling bike magazines in the country: and Mick Matheson is a hard act to follow.
It’s interesting to note other changes though – significant changes in staff like this are often accompanied by other more subtle changes. One is the Deputy Editor, who is now Spencer Leech. Greg’s son perhaps? Or other relation? The previous Deputy, Matt Shields, is listed as a contributor, so he’s at least still writing for the magazine. Not listed as a contributor is Zoe Naylor; and there was no column from her this month. When she first appeared as a columnist I thought it was good to have her there. Good to see a column being written by a woman (these bike magazines – and web-sites! – can be a bit “blokey” sometimes), and interesting as she was a beginner motorcyclist, so her columns were written from that perspective too, which I found interesting. Sometimes though, her columns went off topic and weren’t as interesting. She stopped riding, presumably to have a baby, and her columns became interviews with certain people. But last issue she was back into riding and looking for what bike to buy. Her column ended with, “Til next time, safe travels.” I wonder if this is just a temporary absence, or if the new editor decided he didn’t want her columns? We’ll see next issue. On the subject of ARR, I’ll let you into a little secret: I got close to being a contributor there myself. A couple of years ago I contacted Mick Matheson with an offer to write for the magazine. (I’d been encouraged to do so by several readers of this web-site). I sent him some samples of my writing and he liked what I’d written. The only thing was he didn’t like the title of “The Old Bloke”. It didn’t fit with the image they were trying to promote. The magazine was – and probably still is – perceived to be more for older riders; and they wanted to make it at least appear relevant to younger riders as well. So if I did a column it would just be under my name. That was fine by me. He said that he didn’t need another columnist at that stage, but there were two possibilities: one was that he might be giving one of the existing columnists the flick because he was forever not meeting deadlines. (That columnist is no longer with the magazine). If that “vacancy” didn’t occur, then I could write articles, stories of travels etc. I exchanged a few emails and spoke to Mick on the phone a few times. Everything looked promising. I then sent in an article, with photos, along the lines of what he had suggested. And I never heard from him again. (Nor was the story published). Was the story that bad?? I don’t think so, it was typical of the other things I’d sent him. So I don’t know what happened with that. JANUARY 12, 2017. I read today that Victory Motorcycles is to cease production. Polaris, who owns Victory, is ceasing production of Victory to concentrate on Indian, which they also own. That seems a shame, as Victory have built up a great reputation. I can understand how a manufacturer (or owner company) might want to rationalise its product range and concentrate on one brand, but it still seems a shame to lose this great name. If you own a Victory, don’t worry, spares will be supported for a long time. (Although I imagine the resale value of your bike will have nose-dived!). Read the full story here.
JANUARY 19, 2017. Well, eventually we got a day that was neither scorching hot or raining! (Or taken up with other commitments). It was very overcast – but not raining! I did have a few things to do though, that took up a lot of the day, but I got the bike out and went for a short run late this afternoon. I went up into the Southern Highlands. Yesterday the temperature maxed out at 37. Today 17. How is that even possible?? It was just under that (about 16) when I was there. Quite chilly actually, in my summer jacket with the wind-liner in the top-box! (I actually zipped the liner in when I left home, but soon stopped to take it out. It was warmer on the coast). Still good to get the bike out!
JANUARY 21, 2017. Finally, a great day for a ride! As I mentioned above, it seems that most days are either stinking hot or rainy! Or I have other things on. Today was beautiful sunshine and temps in the mid-20s. Perfect! So, I went on a ride to the Southern Highlands of NSW.
The plan was to use the opportunity to get some direction-details for a run I'm organising to Bundanoon with a classic car club. (See entry on 7th January, above). First stop was Moss Vale RSL for lunch. The plan then was to go to Sutton Forest and across to Bundanoon; but the weather was so nice, and it was so good to be out on the bike, that I got to Sutton Forest and kept going - thinking I'd go to Sallys Corner on the highway and come back to Bundanoon. But I got to Sally's Corner and .... I kept going to Marulan. The photo here is of Marulan Post Office. These days it’s not a post office any more, but part of a touristy place. After leaving Marulan I came back along the back road through Penrose, Wingello etc to Bundanoon and then started taking notes about wording on signs etc. It was a good ride, and a great day to be out! JANUARY 24, 2017. I thought I had posted about this at the time, but apparently I didn’t. In August last year the local (to my area) Shannons rep, Tanya, was involved in a serious crash near Bermagui on the far south coast of NSW. Read about the story here. She was very helpful when I was organising the charity event in honour of my grandson last year (see entry on May 21st 2016). I am currently in the process of organising this year’s event. I had no idea how she was now, (I had tried to find out, but hadn’t been able to); or if she was back at work. But I spoke to her today by phone. She spent over 3 months in hospital, only being allowed to go home in December. She is presently in a wheel-chair; a situation which will probably be permanent. She does hope to get back to work with Shannons eventually though. She said she has received wonderful support from the car and bike community. She also said that two days after her accident, the local council came out and fixed the road. Typical isn’t it! Although if you read the story, there had been serious accidents (including a fatality) at that location before, and nothing had been done. But it often takes a fatality or serious accident to get councils spurred into action in fixing these dangerous situations. Anyway, my best wishes to Tanya; I hope the outcome is even better than you hope for!
JANUARY 31, 2017. Well, sales figures are now in for the whole of last year, and there some interesting results. The market is actually very healthy, prompting Mark Hinchcliffe, of the on-line magazine, Motorcycle Writer, to pose the question as to whether we might be entering another “golden age of motorcycling.” The last quarter of the year was especially good, contributing to an increase over the whole year of 6.6%.
It's always interesting to look at individual sales figures, and you can do that for all categories and makes etc, by heading to the article by Mark Hinchcliffe, here. Topping the charts of road-bikes was Harley Davidson; a result I find surprising, considering their cost! Although helping that result in no small way was the Learner-Legal Street 500. In fact sales of Learner-Approved bikes was one the biggest growth areas in motorcycle sales. Nakeds, cruisers and adventure-bikes were other categories to see significant increases. Harley also took out 4 of the top 5 positions in sales of cruisers; the only other brand to sneak in, at 4th place, was Yamaha with its previous category-best-seller the XVS650. Off-roaders continue to be popular (where do people ride them these days? Just at dedicated tracks?), filling 5 of the top 10 places. Showing just how popular Learner bikes are in the market, 7 out of the top 10 spots in Sports-tourers were taken by Learner bikes. (That's if you call things like an R3 a “Sportstourer”!). Even in the Super-Sport category, Learner bikes were 1st and 2nd, with the Honda 500 and 300 versions taking those honours, before 3rd spot was, thankfully, filled by something more in line with what we think of in terms of “Super-Sports”, Ducati's 959 Panigale. As I said, the figures make interesting reading, so head over to the site and take a look. JANUARY 31, 2017. On my way up Macquarie Pass on 21st this month, (see entry above) there was a guy taking photos, and he snapped me as I rode past. I forgot to follow it up until a day or so ago. It didn’t take long to find out who it was: as I suspected, it was John Keogh, who had taken some photos of me a couple of years ago. (See Blog entry on May 16, 2015). He regularly takes photos on Macquarie Pas (as well as other popular biking roads, such as Royal National Park etc). Last time he took photos of me (see the entry I mentioned), I saw him, came back, then did a ride past again, with a bit more lean on the bike to make it look more impressive. This time, I just saw him kind of out of the corner of my eye as I rode past. I didn't stop or go back. I thought I was going fairly slowly, but the photo looks fairly impressive. The corner is a long corner that tightens through the second half, so while the entry was slow, I was leaning the bike a bit more through the exit, even if I didn’t think I was going very quickly at the time. Anyway I sent him an email and ordered a couple of photos. This was one of them. He uploads high quality digital images, for a cost of just $10 each. He really is a great photographer! Check out his web-site to see more of his excellent work. www.keoghsvision.com.au. Incidentally, I recently used a cropped part of one of the photos he took last time as my profile picture on the front page. I used that as it was the only one I had that was taken front-on.
FEBRUARY 15, 2017. Finally! A day when the weather was fine, I had no commitments, and the forecast temperature was less than 30. I did what the locals often refer to as “The Lap” - Bomaderry, Kangaroo Valley, Robertson and down Macquarie Pass and home. There are 4 mountain passes to go up and down, some quiet back-roads, and great scenery. You can do it in reverse - which many prefer - but I like that direction - mainly because I love the scenery riding towards the mountains out of Kangaroo Valley. A stop in at the famous Robertson Pie Shop for a cuppa (lunch had been an early stop at Berry), provided a nice bit of relaxation before heading home.
FEBRUARY 19, 2017. The interesting things you see in the parking lot!
I saw this beautiful Velocette at Bald Hill, Stanwell Tops. It turned out that I knew the owner – he walked up as I was taking the photo. Early 50s model – 52, I think, with some bits off a 54 added. Sounded great too, as he rode away on it!
FEBRUARY 19, 2107. Bald Hill (which I mentioned above) is on the southern end of the Royal National Park, just south of Sydney. Those who live anywhere near there will know that they’ve been doing a lot of work renovating the parking / lookout area. And, as I mentioned on 3rd October last year, there is a dedicated parking area for bikes there now. It’s always been a popular gathering spot for bikes, but parking (for cars especially, but also bikes) is always crowded. Of course the number of bikes that can park there is limited, so bikes will still have to park in the normal area too. One thing that could be an issue too, is that the “Bikes Only” area slopes slightly down to the left, resulting in a greater lean when parked. Obviously not positioned by people who knew a lot about bikes.
MARCH 11, 2017. Another month and finally a nice day for riding again! Perfect temperatures and sunny skies! And beautiful autumn colours in the Southern Highlands, NSW. The photo below was taken along Centennary Rd outside Bowral. As well as just riding around enjoying some sunshine, I went looking for eating places in Bowral. If I’m in that area I’ve usually gone to Mittagong RSL, but they’ve moved a bit up-market (and correspondingly more expensive) recently; and one problem I sometimes have is getting to these places before the bistro closes at 2pm. So I went looking for a café. Of course there are dozens of cafes in the area, but most are quite expensive. There used to be one in the shopping centre carpark, but that has all changed now. I did find one though – on the side of the carpark. I will go back one day and have lunch there and see what it’s like. Prices seemed reasonable.
MARCH 14, 2017. Fans of Yamaha’s big ol’ retro, the XJR1300, will be interested to know that the latest version might actually be coming here – after a delay of some two years now. (It was released in 2015). The café-racer styled version was actually developed in Australia, for the most part anyway, by Deus Ex Machina in Sydney. And accordingly the world launch was held in Australia. But Yamaha Australia didn’t import it. One reason was that they still had stocks of the old model, which wasn’t selling too well. So they delayed the new model until stocks of the old model had sold. The last of those, I believe, was sold in 2016 – some 2 years after production had stopped: or at least since the last had been imported to Australia. (I think both sold alongside each other for a while in Britain). Anyway, the rumour is that it might finally be coming, with a retail price expected to be around $16,000.
Personally (as you probably know, I own an XJR1300), I acknowledge that something had to be done to update it, apart from giving it a new paint scheme (which is all that they’d been doing since the last real update in 2007), but I don’t like the new one. Oh, it looks cool, but that appears to be at the expense of practicality, which was always one of the great hallmarks of the big Yammie naked.
MARCH 14, 2017. Speaking of the Yamaha XJR1300, well, mine in particular, my bike turns 10 years old this month. Happy birthday to it!
I’ve had it for almost 9 of those: it was about 18 months old when I bought it. It still looks pretty good – well, from a distance. Up close there are some slight signs of ageing: rust spots on some bolt heads, oxidisation stains on some of the more out-of-the-way alloy bits; those sort of things that age invariably brings if you look closely. But step back a few paces and it looks good. It is in good condition: it’s well maintained, and it lives inside a locked garage, only getting rained on if it happens to rain while I’m out. It has been supremely reliable! As all previous Yamahas I’ve owned have been. (Well almost all, there was the one I got caught out with! Click here to read about that one). The only trouble I’ve had with it has been a warning light that briefly comes on occasionally, due to a faulty sensor (an external air-pressure sensor is). But because this only happens occasionally, I haven’t got around to replacing it. Especially for a big heavy bike, the longevity of consumables like brake-pads, chain, sprockets, and even tyres has been remarkable! I don’t thrash it, of course, and in general, I ride it fairly gently I suppose (compared to its potential), but I do give it a decent squirt of acceleration from time to time. And it gets a good blast at high speed when I get the chance (gotta be careful not to fall foul of the boys-in-blue though!). Having a decent turn of acceleration means you don’t need much clear road to get it up to 140kph or so. Even the old “ton” (160kph) will come up pretty quickly. But other traffic and the consequences of being 40 or 50 or 60 kph over the posted limit does tend to restrict this sort of behavior. It never was, and probably still isn’t, what I would consider my ideal bike. I like sports-tourers: something with a half-fairing is my ideal. And something lighter would be prefferable too. It’s not as heavy as a big cruiser, but not as light as a mid-size sports-tourer either. Despite this though, I have no intention of selling it. Mainly because I haven’t found a bike I would be happy to replace it with. Where it is ideal is in its overall comfort. The upright riding-position, supple suspension (fully adjustable to suit what I want) and good seat, are things I haven’t found all together, in sufficient degrees, on any other bike I’ve ridden. And I really love its grunty, V8-like, torquey power! Some bikes are better in one area (for example, the Yamaha MT-09Tracer has a better riding-position, mostly due to its lower foot-pegs), but they fall short in other areas. Some bikes get very close though; like the BMW R1200GS, which is comfortable and has a supurb ride; and the BMW F800GT impressed me too. There have been others that I've been impressed with too. Gee, I even said I could live with the Honda CB500R, if I had to! But none of these have made me want to rush out and start pleading with the bank manager! (Or the wife; who could be a tougher challenge than the bank manager!). So it stays, at least until I get too old and weak to handle it, or someone comes up with a bike that answers all the requirements I have for my personal two-wheeler.
MARCH 21, 2017. Thanks to Karen for posting this.
The picture obviously shows the most common impact area for helmets. It makes sense that the most common point of impact would be the front or front / side. It makes a pretty good argument for wearing a full-face helmet as opposed to an open-face, doesn’t it! Another thing that occurred to me was the standards test (Australian? UK? I’m not sure), that drops a pointed object onto the top of the helmet and measures the helmet’s ability to resist such an impact is hardly relevant, with less than half of one percent of impact happening in that area.
MARCH 23, 2017. Lane filtering will now be legal in South Australia, bringing it in line with most other states. The same rules apply as in other states (up to a maximum speed of 30kph, not next to parked cars and so on). Handy in city traffic, and avoids potential rear-end collisions too.
MARCH 24, 2017. I picked up the latest Cycle Torque magazine today. The usual café / pie-shop where I get it hasn’t had it for months, well not when I’ve called in anyway; and when I’ve had the chance to wander into a bike shop, they haven’t had any either. Today I went into a bike shop, and they had a stack of them. I like Cycle Torque! Always a good read, and refreshing after the recent couple of editions of Australian Road Rider, which has turned into a bit of travel-magazine lately – albeit with interesting travels stories. And Nigel Paterson, who does most of the test-reports, does a good job: his reports don’t read like an advertisement from the manufacturer, as many do, and he is critical of things where criticism is warranted. One reason the magazine hasn’t been around so much is that it is now bi-monthly: that’s right, one issue every two months, not monthly.
MARCH 25, 2017. When I got to the centre pages of Cycle Torque I found a two-page spread announcing that Cycle Torque TV is back! I always enjoyed this. In contrast to what I wrote above, the tests on that always seemed like they were pandering to the manufacturers who sponsored the show, but it was still enjoyable. I hope they maintain the same objective approach they take with the magazine. The show starts on April 4, and will screen each Tuesday at 8.30pm on channel 173, Foxtel, or Aurora. If, like me, you don’t get any of those, look on YouTube. Look for “cycle torque”, or go to cycletorque.com.au and look for the link (in the list of stuff they've posted). Oh, and in case you didn’t know, there are regular videos posted on YouTube from them, quite apart from the “TV show” – road-tests and other short items. Well worth checking out!
MARCH 30. Hey, TV is getting better!! I mentioned Cycle Torque TV coming back, well Temporary Australians is back too! It starts back 1st April, showing on 7Mate at 10pm. Read about the new series, and watch a preview, on their web-site.
APRIL 1, 2017. This frightening video is a good lesson on counter-steering. It has been argued that all riders use counter-steering as a natural instinct; but I don’t think that is true. All riders do it, or sort of do it, otherwise they couldn't turn corners! But not every rider consciously pushes the right bar to turn right and left to turn left. I mention it quite a bit in road-tests, with things like, “Gentle counter-steering is all that is required to point the bike where you want it to go…” What is being taught here in particular is using counter-steering to avoid obstacles (in this case a truck!). So learning to push the right bar when you want to swerve right, and left bar to swerve left. That doesn’t come naturally. Many riders faced with this situation would try to do what this rider did - turn the bars right, which, as it is explained, is totally the wrong thing to do. This is a good lesson, and one that riders, if they aren’t totally familiar with this, should practice.
APRIL 8, 2017. Today I took a group of bikes to a local dementia care facility for a bike display.
We’ve been doing this once or twice a year for a few years now. It’s a good thing to do, and they give us a sausage-sandwich lunch. Unfortunately, a few of our “regulars” weren’t able to come, so it was a small group today. Still, it was something different for the residents to look at. They enjoyed looking at the bikes, and we had a chat to them too. A good time! This is just a few of the bikes; and also shows the pleasant surroundings of the place.
APRIL 9, 2017. I went to a classic car display day today.
There were a few bikes there too. My early days of riding were on trail-bikes - all Yamahas. So I'd love to have one of these old Yamahas! This is a Yamaha DT175 from 1971. I had a 1975 DT175 (bought 2nd-hand for my wife), and a brand new 1979 DT175 for me. I also had a (new) 1977 DT125. I had a chat to the owner, who is a member of our Facebook page. Yes, I'd love to have one of these in the shed!
APRIL 15, 2017. I read today that Queensland’s “anti-bikie” taskforce is to become a permanent part of the state’s police force. “Taskforce Maxima”, which was set up by former premier Campbell Newman, will become part of a newly-created Organised Crime Gangs Group. Now, I don’t mind if they are targeting known criminals, and organised crime, but we all know what happened when all this first kicked off, along with the infamous “anti-association” laws: some police seemed to be taking a “guilty-until-proven-innocence” approach and innocent every-day riders were being treated like criminals. So for our Queensland residents, this will be something they will be watching closely, and could prove to be an intrusion into the lives and activities of innocent riders. We’ll see what happens.
APRIL 24, 2017. Thanks to Rod for posting this. An extensive survey undertaken on reliability of the popular brands of motorcycle. It makes for interesting reading! You might think the results are predictable - although maybe not. Either way, it might influence your decision on what your next bike will be. Or maybe not. One brand (I won't spoil it by saying which one) came in at 6th place in reliability, but scored 2nd place in an owner-satisfaction survey conducted independently of this. So for some, the ownership is worth the more frequent break-down. And I guess that's fair enough. Reliability is not the top of the list of priorities for some people. In any case, the results are interesting! Click here for the story. APRIL 24, 2017. Today marks 50 years since I got my driver’s licence. Yes, that makes me a definite “old bloke”, ancient, a contemporary of the dinosaur almost. But it was the 24th April 1967 when I was handed my driver’s licence and plastic white and red P-plate. I didn’t go for my motorcycle licence for quite a few years after that – I was more into cars, although still very interested in bikes too! Anything with an engine and wheels really. The story of my early days of learning to drive has a couple of interesting aspects to it, so I wrote a story of that – initially for my car club’s magazine, but you might enjoy reading it too. You can read about me driving around public roads when I was just 15; and if you can visualise the scene in the police station that will give you a chuckle. Click here for the story.
MAY 7, 2017. Today I went to Berry for the annual Classic Bike Display. I considered riding, but I prefer to drive as I don't have to lug the jacket around (or wear it or carry it). So I went in the car.
The display was interesting – as usual. Always some nice bikes there, and some unusual ones. Included in the “unusual” category were two postie bikes that had been converted into choppers. It was another great display of lovely old bikes anyway! Here are a couple of photos. The bike on the left is a BSA Bantam. If I'd continued with the restoration of the one I had (which was the exact same model), this is what it might have looked like - except I painted mine grey. On the right is a Yamaha TY250 trials bike. I had one of the exact same model. I used it for my attempts at trials riding, when a couple of riding friends and I got into that - although I preferred just riding it around the trials area of the motorcross track. Quite a torquey thing for a 2-stroke. Good fun! But eventually I got tired of having to trailer it everywhere.
MAY 10, 2017. Another beautiful day – we’ve had a stretch of great weather for riding, but I haven’t been able to get out. There have been other commitments on, or things happening. Today was a typical example. For the past few months I’ve been busy organising a charity event – a fund-raising event in honour of my grandson who died of a brain tumour in the beginning of 2015. When I’ve had a day off (I don’t work Wednesdays) the temptation has been there to go for a ride, but I’ve had too much to do.
MAY 13, 2017. Today was the day of our charity event The Joshua Bell Cure Cancer Run – held for motorcycles and classic cars. It was, as I mentioned in the post above, a fund-raiser for research into childrens cancer, held in honour of my grandson who passed away, aged 8, from a brain tumour in 2015. Starting that year, and each year since, I’ve held this run for bikes and classic cars. This year we had some great support, with very generous donations of prizes for raffles and auctions. Shannons Insurance also helped out by covering the cost of hiring the hall and donating $500. A business in the Blue Mountains area initiated some donations from businesses there that enabled us to put together three overnight holiday packages that we raffled off. We pushed the raffle and sales of tickets before the event, and in total that brought in over $1200. All up, the event raised just over $3,000! I was amazed at this, and so grateful to everyone who supported it. To read more about it, (and see more photos), go to the web-site (click on the highlighted link above). There were 44 entrants on the day, and that was fairly evenly divided between bikes and cars. Here are a couple of photos of the bikes. This year I had a “People’s Choice” award for cars and bikes. The winning bike, by a long way, was this great old Velocette picturted above. And that despite some pretty schmick looking cruisers. I guess the gathered people were more classic-minded. (Although my pick was that quite spectacular looking blue cruiser!).
MAY 17, 2017. As mentioned in my post on May 10 above, I haven’t been doing much riding lately. In fact the bike hadn’t left the garage in about 3 weeks! And before that it was mainly short rides. Today though, with another nice day forecast, I was determined to go for a ride! But before I go any further, I need to go back to yesterday,
I wanted to go yesterday, but there were some left-over things from the charity run that I really needed to attend to, so by the time I’d done that it was lunch time, and then after lunch it was getting too late, so I didn’t go. I also expected I might have trouble starting the bike. For a while now the bike has been increasingly sluggish to start. The battery is a few years old and so it seemed the need for a replacement was imminent. So I went down to the shed and tried to start it. I was a bit surprised when it turned over reasonably well and fired up. Satisfied the battery was okay, I turned it off and came back inside. You see the mistake in that, don’t you? Yes, I did too, but as it seemed to be quite lively I was sure it’d be okay. So, back to this morning – or actually early afternoon by the time I was ready to leave. I got the gear on, went down to the bike, turned the key, hit the start button and ….. it wouldn’t start! Just slowly turned over, but with not enough spark to fire. So frsutrating! I finally get the chance to go for a ride and the bike won't go! I pulled off the helmet and gloves, got the jump-start pack and connected it up. Hit the starter and it was just as bad as before, if not worse! I checked the connections (red to positive terminal, black to earth somewhere – not the other terminal which was how we used to do it). Tried it again – still just sluggishly turning over, but no start. You’re supposed to wait 3 minutes after every attempt to start it (so it says on the jump-start pack), so I did that; in the meantime unclipping the black lead from a bolt under the seat near the battery, and instead attaching it to the footpeg. Hit the starter and a few, more lively, turns of the motor and it started. (Upon checking later, the bolt I had at first attached the Earth lead to wasn’t Earthed, despite appearing to go into a section of the frame). I pulled on the gloves and helmet. I was heading for a favourite eating spot in a club just over 50km away; and I had 45 minutes before the bistro closed. Sounds easy, but first I had to clear my own suburbia and along the way there is a town notorious for slow traffic. And also roadworks. But there is also a reasonable amount of 100kph highway. I pushed on, going through a couple of sets of lights on the amber, then sitting on an indicated 10kph (sometimes just a little more?) over the limit all the way. When I pulled into the club's driveway I had 10 minutes to spare. After lunch and a relax, I headed south for a while, then home via a coastal route, then detouring through a rural area with some nice twisties. A short detour to admire some river scenery along the way added to the enjoyment. All up I only did about 130km, but it was still good to get out. Now, about that battery ……
MAY 23, 2017. Harley Davidson is celebrating 100 years in Australia! That’s a great achievement! They were imported in 1917 by Morgan & Wacker in Brisbane; who are still in business today. So, Happy 100 Harley Davidson! Needless to say, there are no other motorcycle manufacturers that can make that claim – of being on the Australian market for 100 years! Oh, and did you know that Australia is Harley’s biggest export market? Apparently so. When you see the number of Harleys about – and the loyal following they have locally – it’s not so surprising I suppose, even given that we are, in global terms, a very small market.
MAY 24, 2017. Further to my post on May 17 about my battery dying (or in the process of), yesterday I bought a new one. An SSB AGM type at a local bike dealer (Carr Brothers Motorcycles), for a discounted price of $100. The battery place where I bought my current one had a lead / acid type (sealed, but still a wet-cell design) for $90. I considered AGM and Gel batteries (they are not the same thing, by the way, although some people think they are, but the concept is similar in that they are both dry-cell). I didn't consider Lithium - they are the battery in many ways, but too expensive and not really justified for my use. AGM or Gel batteries are the way to go I think. According to the Yuasa website, you can expect an extra 2 or 3 years from an AGM compared to lead /acid.
And speaking of battery life, why is it that batteries in new vehicles never last long - even when they are good quality? I've experienced this with cars and bikes. My bike came with a Yamaha-branded Yuasa battery. It lasted only 4 years (that's not a long time to me). The replacement, which was a cheaper brand (SSB) lead / acid type (at least I assume it was, it didn't say) lasted 6 years. Something to consider - if you're not aware of it - is the CCA rating (that's “cold cranking amps”). The standard battery specification for mine is 230CCA. One battery I got a price on (at a different battery specialist) was rated at only 165. The one I bought is apparently designed for V-twins (which take a bit more oomph to crank over) and is rated at 350CCA.
MAY 24, 2017. While I was getting the battery I had a look at all the bikes in and around the shop. (Of course!). I saw a couple with big notices attached advising that they were write-offs and could not be re-registered. (That’s the law in NSW). One was a Suzuki Bandit which had a lower section fairing fitted. There were deep scratches in the fairing, and I think on the tank. And scratches on the end of the handlebar. That was all I could see. It seemed very little damage really. The other was a Yamaha naked (MT09 or similar). The damage on it was weird – a broken front mudguard and scratches that were almost horizontal across the headlight and instrument binnacle. Scratches on the end of the handlebar and a smashed mirror. I looked at the forks (a quick look) and they didn’t seem to be bent. So another one with what appeared to be minimal damage, but not considered worth repairing. It seems silly! And a waste of what could again be a good bike.
MAY 27, 2017. I just watched the final episode in this season’s Cycle Torque TV. I’ve enjoyed this series, and I'm sorry to see it end. One thing - which has become obvious anyway – was confirmed: the magazine has become a bi-monthly publication – published every second month. It is, however, available online, or through the appropriate device ap, on a monthly basis.
JUNE 3, 2017. I had an enjoyable day today meeting up with a riding friend, Noel, who I hadn't seen for a long time. Also catching up with some of his friends I'd previously met, and meeting others I hadn't met before. They are all from Sydney area, with Noel being in the north-west. So most of their rides head north or west: they don't come down my way very often. I met them at Stanwell Tops, then we went to Bulli Beach cafe for a cuppa and chat, then through Albion Park, up Macquarie Pass to Robertson Pie shop for another stop to eat and chat.
They are all great people, and there were no attitudes, or people playing boy-racer, etc. Led by Noel, everyone rode at a reasonable speed and all stayed together (no jostling for positions, which happens in some groups). Nice people to ride with!
Our group - minus one who had continued on - at Robertson. A beautiful trike conversion of a Goldwing.
JUNE 5, 2017. This is incredible! Aaron posted this comment on Facebook. “Well I found out this morning what happens when a Ducati Multistrada reaches 99,999km..... nothing!!!.....it remains at those digits.” Aaron has a 200km round-trip to work each day, so he knocks up the kilometres pretty quickly. His previous bike, a Suzuki V-Strom, had 140,000 on the clock when he sold it and bought the Duke. He rang the local Ducati dealer, describing his dilemma of “Paying good money for a high tech bike that tells you when your major and minor Desmo Services are due as set by the odometer and now I don't even have a functioning odometer to do it manually - only a Trip meter. I also made reference to the legality of RMS requirements of odometers and sales etc. The dealer said he has never heard of anyone with a 2012 model getting to 99,999 before. He took my number to ring me back.” When the dealer did call back, it was to tell him that Ducati Australia had told him that the odometer was designed to be capped at 99,999km! It will not go further, and can’t be reset. The only solution was to replace the entire instrument cluster. When he asked how much that would be, the dealer guessed at, “A few thousand dollars”. After much searching, the best he found was on eBay, where a Ducati dealer in Melbourne was selling one for $599 – plus postage. He said he is “About to go the fair trading / ACCC / Industry Ombudsmen path.” As indeed he should! That is crazy! I’ve never heard of anything like that. In the old days of speedos reading in miles, there were only 5 digits, so when it got to 99,999, it just clicked back to zero and started all over. Since we started measuring in kilometres all speedos (that I know of anyway) display 6 digits. But in any case, it is crazy that it doesn't just click over to zero. The age of electronics has hit again! Along with a major over-sight by the said electronic's designers.
JUNE 6, 2017. I was just informed tonight of the death of Greg Hirst.
That was a bit of a shock! I've been watching the current series of “Temporary Australians” (which was filmed over quite a long period of time, of course), and he was riding around America, and seemed okay. It says that he died, “after complications from surgery”. I wonder what the surgery was, and what went wrong? In any case, it’s a reminder that all surgery has an element of risk. Greg Hirst has been an influential figure in motorcycling for a long time. Also influential in the Christian motorcycling community. I met him once, when he came to a church I attend. Bikes parked on the forecourt of the church - that was good to see! His book "My Motorcycling Life" (that's one of the books he has written) is a good read, and an interesting look into the life of the man, who has lived a life of motorcycling touching all segments of the movement, from outlaws to social riding to Christian movements. Very sad to see! He will be much missed!
JUNE 19, 2017. A big celebration of the life of Greg Hirst today.
A sad day for his family and many friends, and the motorcycling community. I wasn’t there, but some friends who were said that there was a big contingent of bikes there to pay fitting tribute to the great man of motorcycling. And a big crowd in attendance. Long will he be remembered.
JUNE 27, 2017. It's been a busy time lately, with one thing and another; and then there's been cold wet days, so I haven't had the chance to get out and do a couple of test-rides. There should be some coming up soon though. One that a reader wanted me to try was the Indian Scout. That was a bit awkward, because there wasn't a local dealer. There is a dealer in Sydney, but you can't really test a bike in the city - unless it's a commuter you're testing. But a couple of months ago, a local bike shop, Steel City Motorcycles, was appointed dealer for the famous American brand. And they had a Scout demo available. But, for the reasons I mentioned, I haven't been able to get out to ride it. Today I happened to be in the area, (walking past the front door, in fact!), so of course I had to go in. I had a good chat to the owner of the business, Ron Sumskis, who is a former racer and local motorcycling identity. And yes, the Scout is still available for a ride. So I will do that as soon as I can.
A bit of coincidental trivia. The same shop sells Royal Enfield. (It was that shop that provided the test-bike for the test I did on the Royal Enfield). The coincidence? Well, at one stage during their history, Royal Enfields were re-badged as Indians and sold under that name in America.
JUNE 28, 2017. Being in business myself, I hate to see businesses fail, but I'm afraid I have no regrets about this one. Zero Motorcycles has ceased consumer sales in Australia. (Apparently some fleet sales will continue). Yes, yes, I know that fossil fuels are a finite resource which we are running out of, and that electric machines are the way of the future (so we're told); and I know that electric bikes can be quick (as shown at IOM races!), but I'm afraid they hold no appeal to me. Like electric cars. Hybrids (good ones!), maybe, but not fully electric. As has been said by people already - zero interest in them.
Click here to go to the next installment of my Blog