Saturday, November 28, 2009

Coromandel Loop, but which way?

We were up early and on the road - Ivan's black R6 straining at the straps to be let out, and me on the Boulevard C90 wanting to try out my new skills on one of the best motorcycling roads around - the Coromandel Loop. I mounted the camera on the handlebar and we were off for lunch in Thames - meaning Kopu - Hikuwai - Tairau - Whitianga - Coromandel - Thames. Turn left its 7KM and right its 180KM.

Ivan deciding which way to go - turn right and have lunch in Thames, or turn left and have lunch in Whitianga.

This was my first outing, besides riding to work each day, since my Level 1 California Superbike School at Hampton Downs, so I was keen to get out on a good road and see if any of the learning had sunken in. Well it took a couple of corners actually, to get the words right and to just relax and do the riders job:
The riders job is to stabilise the motorcycle with the throttle.
I soon got the feel right and started to really enjoy the road. I really like Keith Code's analogy of the $10 bill - you have only so much attention available and if you are going to use it on 'controlling fear' (probably introduced through too much rider input) then you don't have much left to explore the possibilities the corner may have, or getting to the places you want to be to drive into the next corner, for instance. As I started to relax and the learnings came back to me, the words started changing:
Once the throttle is cracked open, it is rolled on continuously throughout the remainder of the turn.
The cornering shot is a frame about 2 KM up Kopu-Hikuwai. We cruised on through to Whitianga with Ivan very responsibly leading the way, and stopped for gas and a break. The weather on the Thames side was overcast, however once over the Coromandel Ranges the sun was out and summer had arrived. We stopped for a while at the lovely beach for photo opportunities and ice-cream.

A very pleasant stop-over at Whitianga beach - Yamaha R6 and Suzuki Boulevard C90 - even the name is bigger! However the R6 has twice the number of cylinders and 3 times the revs.

Once underway again I lead the way back over the top to Coromandel and then down the Thames Coast to Thames, where we stopped for lunch at the Sola Cafe - a great place too BTW. I waved to a friendly patrol car (the biker nod actually) and noticed that Ivan had slipped back quietly into the distance a little ("Who me Officer"?). Ivan reckoned I'd get kicked out of the Cruiser Group if I kept riding like that - meaning he was having to work to keep up - I was really 'getting' that later turn-in point and the quick steer and roll-on is just magic. Of course you have to be in the right place and speed for that to come together, and that wasn't every corner by any means. It was interesting to figure out that when we were made to go around Hampton Downs with no brakes, we certainly got the idea of speed coming into the turn - it is the same speed you are trying to get when you have your brakes available... in fact I would say that I went faster into the turn without brakes than with them to start with. Of course on the track at Hampton Downs you go through those corners over and over so you can make small changes and experience what happens, whereas on the road the corners, traffic and environment is ever-changing so you get one chance per weekend :-)

It was still early... so gassed up we decided to return via another great road: Kaiaua-Kawakawa Bay-Clevedon. Mmmm oysters... $11.50 per dozen - good too. It only started to rain a little when we got to the motorway at Manurewa. Another magic motorcycle ride on some great roads just south of Auckland.


Ivan R6 said...

Well, mate, it was so awesome I had to think about it for a week and half before writing:) Lesson 1 is that California Super Bike School teaches you to handle the bike and hence feel safe and comfortable at speeds which are simply not safe on public roads. Not safe for yourself or your license ha ha ha. Keith’s 10 dollars of attention become about 5 after you spend 2 on road quality and 3 on traffic around ya. Lesson 2 – toughen up lol. The road though is quite awesome not much wrong with it at all. How about Scenic Drive next since you like little tight corners that much? Not much of speeds but very technical….

JohnHS said...

You are right, of course, but that $5 sure goes alot further now ;-)

Not sure about the weekend, I probably have a Saturday ride and a Sunday sail happening - but need to consider significant others in the equation. I'll let you know.