Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

After all our stable weather it seemed the right time to be thinking about doing the Tongariro Crossing, one of New Zealand's best one-day walks - definitely on the "things to do before you die" list. That's a cheery thought... The walk is 18.5 km and is scheduled to take 7-9 hours depending on the brochure you read.

I decided that the track highlight should be 'visited-link" colour.

The Chateau on Mt Ruapehu

The plan was to drive down on the Friday night after work, and stay at the Chateau, on Mt Ruapehu, then up early for the 7:00AM pickup to the Mangetepopo end of the trail. After a very slow exit from the city with peak hour traffic adding an hour to the trip, we were underway, with friends Peter and Claire an hour ahead of us. Its a good road down through the back roads to Otorohanga, through Te Kuiti (where we had takeaways - but not again) and through to Hwy 4 down to the mountains.

We stayed at the Chateau 2 nights - it was great - I recommend it (booked via, whatever you are doing in the National Park region.

The weather had ideas of its own however. The Saturday walk was cancelled due to gale force winds and rain. Not so bad as we could therefore afford a sleep-in ;-) There are a couple of walks available from quite close to the Chateau, so we decided to 'road-test' our gear on a couple of them - The Silica Rapids walk and the Taranaki Falls walk - both around the 5km / 2hours and family friendly. Boy did we get soaked - Viv had on her new North Face wet weather overpants and she was dry - I had a nylon coat and spray pants and was saturated. That's why you need to spend more money and get good gear. Great walks through varied terrain which we survived - at what would be about half the distance of the Tongariro Crossing, without any damage.

The Tongariro Crossing

By late Saturday afternoon the Crossing was scheduled open for Sunday, with the winds and rain dying out overnight. And so they did, with an overcast day with little wind greeting us at 5:45AM Sunday morning.

Looking South: Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, and Mt Ruapehu from the edge of the Blue Lake.

The overcast weather was very welcome - I can imagine that a clear hot summer day would be hell-on-earth - truly walking in Mordor! Of course Mt Ngauruhoe IS Mt Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and alot of the landscape is reminiscent of the movie.

The bus took us to the Mangetepopo carpark where the trail starts for most people - this is the preferred starting direction. The driver said there would be approx 400 people on the trail that day. The first part of the journey is quite flat, and includes a board walk to the bottom of the Devil's Staircase. You ascend the stairs for nearly an hour, with great views to the West towards Mt Taranaki in the distance, which we could see quite clearly. At the top you can choose to go up Ngauruhoe for another 2 hours to the summit - which we didn't do, but which I will do on another trip. 2 hours up, half an hour down - it looks impossibly steep.

Then across the Tongariro South Crater and up to the top to overlook the Red Crater, where we stopped for morning tea. Truly majestic scenery - and quite harsh - and yet as we sat there we noticed lady-birds on the rocks eating moss - very unexpected.

Down to Ketetahi

As we started our descent the sun came out and it started to get very hot - just as well we were going downhill! Even so, we were all shedding layers as we approached the Ketetahi DOC hut - and starting to think about lunch. I was thinking - "Why did I carry all this food up the mountain?"

We stopped for an hour, took boots off, and had lunch. What a fantastic vista North across Lake Rotoaira to Lake Taupo in the distance.

Then the last leg of the walk - down over the tussock to the bush, and the Ketetahi carpark. As we entered the bush the air cooled and it was at first very pleasant. After a while though it was muggy and close and a bit of breeze would have been most welcome. We arrived at 10 minutes to 3:00 - and the buses were all there waiting to take us back to the Chateau - or wherever you might be staying. I noted that a few people with cars and campervans had parked at the Base Camp and bused from there - a safer alternative to leaving a car in the end-of-trail carparks.

This walk is just fantastic and you have to do it. Given that we started early and completed by 3:00PM - and only moderately fit - I think that it is within the grasp of alot of people.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ride Carefully: Coromandel Loop

Thunder Beach

The long awaited morning dawns and promises a beautiful day for a ride to Whitianga. Up reasonably early and off to Colemans Suzuki, our meeting place for the ride over to Thunder Beach - which this year is Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Caltex Bombay

Travelling in a convoy is always a bit of a treat however it can be difficult to stay together, especially around the city where there are traffic lights and traffic to contend with. First stop at the Caltex Bombay, we met up with some southern riders and consolidated back into a group. Kev and Cathy were the ride captains and Grey the Tail-end Charlie - the ride was very orderly, with mostly cruisers and about 20 sports or touring bikes. We took Hwy 2 and headed for the next stop/mustering point at Kopu. There were in the vicinity of 80 bikes in total that went over the hill to Whitianga. The roadworks only got us once, just at the start of the Kopu-Hikuwai road where all our polishing and preening got covered in fine dust ;-)

Face Off: Sporties one side Cruisers the other.

A great gathering at Whitianga with BBQ and drinks. Fantastic organisation by Troy Hardy and Colemans own Alistair. I have the tee-shirt to prove it!

Driving on the Wrong Side

I left Whitianga because I had a day at Hampton Downs planned on Sunday and I was going to complete the Coromandel Loop, and stay in Ngatea the night before going on to the trackday early Sunday. It was such a wonderful day, clear and dry and possibly a bit hot... but in the wind created by riding it was very comfortable - I was wearing full leathers in preparation for the Hampton Downs rideday. I stopped in at the smokehouse in Coromandel (a must) and proceeding down the coast. Then I met this:

This Sunny Vanette is on MY SIDE OF THE ROAD... what to do?

I braked of course, but consciously did not go into the right lane, for fear of the driver suddenly 'waking up' and swerving to their left - thereby sending me over the cliff to my far right.

I stood on.

He kept coming...

Now what... of course this is all happening in about 1 second - then I swerved to the right - slightly too late - there was a bang and I was thrown over on my right side - the indicator, mirror and (unfortunately) the clutch lever taking the initial impact with the van. Evil Stig found himself sliding face-first up the road. I got up and the van had come to a stop still in the wrong lane - a trap for the next rider or driver to find. I got myself up and picked up the bike with the help of my new acquaintance - a French guy - who (I guess) had a brain-fade, started driving on the right and when I appeared just froze at the wheel.

If I had of been in a car it would have been a head-on, and we may not have walked away.

Riding home my main concern was getting across Kopu bridge, which currently has a traffic light and is only one way - I managed to crawl along and grab the lights as they went green.

No way to get a new clutch lever before the trackday - damn luck.

Prolog: Hampton Downs Screaming

Well as it turns out Darren and the team at the Hampton Downs Ridedays have hire bikes available - Suzuki GSXR 600's - so maybe I could do the trackday... hello Christmas present.

Turn 5 at Hampton Downs track.

There is a race meeting coming up next weekend, so there were lots of racers there practising, along with us who were there for the enjoyment. And it was again a beautiful day - although getting up to over 30degC later in the day - very hot for leathers, unless you are going around the track! The GSXR600 is a real screamer (well I am a V-twin rider) and all fun with it. I got the steer for gearing suggestions from Darren and proceeded to have a great day, learning the track again and experiencing the different ride of the Gixer. It went very well - although they had taped up the speedo - what is 14K in 4th? The Suzuki handled nicely - seemed to 'waggle' a bit on the front straight while the throttle was pinned, and I was told maybe that was caused by the starting grid marking... don't know.

Nice bike alright, but does it have the soul of a Ducati 916.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Road Trip North Island

An email arrived from Nick..."Hey John, Are you interested in doing a 3 day motorcycle trip around Northland starting thurs 4 November?" Um, just give me 1.5 seconds to think about it... YES!

Looking towards Cape Maria Van Diemen.

Three Day Ride To the Cape and Back

I left work on Thursday night to meet up with the guys at Te Waipounamu Motorcycle Tours where the hire bikes were being picked up. There I met Nick, Ian, Chris, Ralph, and Heina. Ian was on his own bike, a Honda VFR 800 and the others on the hire bikes BMW GS650, Suzuki SV650, Yamaha FZ6, and Suzuki DL650.

Thursday Night, Matakana

Gassed up and ready to go - we charged off to Matakana where our accommodation had been booked at the Omaha River Retreat, which was a lovely spot overlooking Omaha. Then dinner at Matakana which was very nice - and at the end of the meal, Brian turns up on the Kawasaki ZG1400 Concours, having ridden continuously from Christchurch - legend. We had escaped the rain so far, but we found that outside the restaurant was a wet, dark and somewhat dismal night which saw us getting lost again trying to find the Retreat. A good chat over a beer or two and bed.

Friday Clearing and the Coast Roads

First things first - BREAKFAST. Well we had breakfast arranged at Graeme's place in Warkworth, and that is where we stopped next, guided by the smell of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee, and with Graeme's excellent guide-book which covered the trip in every detail. Fed up and agreeably drunk we headed off on the next leg of the trip, with Graeme leading the way on his DL650.

Turning off the main highway we headed up the Wayby Valley and onto the coast road through Mangawhai, Langs Beach and Waipu Cove before getting back on SH1. A welcome coffee and scone at Marsden Point and we continued up through Whangarei heading back to the coast at Ngunguru. The roads by this time were dry and the day had cleared considerably from the light misty rain we experienced earlier.

We stopped at Matapouri and walked down to the beach - just beautiful... I was thinking "Where's my fishing rod"? the Bay looked so inviting. It wasn't the last time I thought that either, as we went up the coast, the bays got more beautiful with clear water and clean sand - they oozed calm and relaxation. It seemed the further we went North the lighter the load - the stress was left behind.

Miles of Smiles

After Matapouri we were meant to stop at Helena Bay for lunch - but something happened to the twisting hand... and 4 of us found ourselves in Russell - what a blast - that road from Matapouri to Russell definitely scored a row of smileys as far as we were concerned... it is one of the best roads I have ridden. I can sympathise with families in cars though, it would be a real "are we there yet" nightmare for the same reason we loved it - winding roads ;-)

Waitangi Carpark, with minder John looking after the bikes.

The ferry at Opua followed by a quick look around Waitangi, including our honorary NZer Heina, it was on to the motor camp at Kerikeri and the hunt for dinner and cold beer. We found an Italian restaurant near the camp which was really good - and we somehow managed to drink their beer and consume the wonderful Italian meals. In fact we finished all their Peroni (Italian beer), and they had to send out for more wine when we took a liking to a particular merlot - oh well, someone has to do it...

Saturday Dawns, the Cape Awaits

I believe that all slept soundly, and woke to a beautiful morning which was made for riding - to the Cape, no less. Of course our first job for the day was locating an excellent breakfast, which we did at Mangonui, which was quickly followed by a piece of fish from the Mangonui Fish Shop. Breakfast could have been found at Whangaroa, but the only thing we saw being served was cold beer and a pie - um, no thanks.

Cape Reinga, New Zealand
Cape Reinga, New Zealand.

Funny I have been twice before to Cape Reinga and I remember a dull long uneventful road that goes on forever. But on a bike... what a great road! I really enjoyed the sweeping road with different scenery available as you climb up to the ridges and look out towards the coast and the sand dunes, or dive down into the farmland valleys.

And there were a few bikes on that road... 300 odd. A local group were having a poker run and had attracted 300 registrations, and then there were other groups like the 8 of us doing the trip North or riders just enjoying the great weekend weather.

Cape Reinga, New Zealand
At the Cape Reinga carpark.

The Nine Riders

The trip up the Cape is about 200kms round trip from Awanui and that isn't too far off the fuel capacity for the cruiser. On the way back the guys headed off to 90 Mile Beach, but I reckoned that the extra 20km might put me on an empty tank, so I carried on to Awanui - fuel light flashing. Once gassed up I turned the key and... nothing... no power, no go. It was that sudden no-go that I had experienced before with the car when the battery dies - so I reasoned that was the problem.

Eventually everyone arrived at the BP and gassed up and then Lou our ninth rider casually strolled over and said hi. He had ridden up from Auckland taking every long-way on the route up to Kaitaia on a DL650 that he picked up at Te Waipounamu Motorcycle Tours in Takapuna.

We tried push starting the beast. Well 2 x 750cc cylinders take quite a lot of momentum to start, and even in 3rd gear we couldn't get the bike going. The jump starter from the garage only got us to the Warehouse at Kaitaia, and then a fruitless purchase of a small portable jump-starter (which was not charged up). We disconnected the headlight and got a jump start from some very helpful policemen who suddenly appeared on the scene. Not sure if they noticed me drinking beer in the the Warehouse carpark - probably not the right thing to do - but we were running again. With the load from the headlight now off the battery, we had enough power to get a spark and we made our way to Ahipara, where we had a house booked for the night.

I should have taken a picture there - it was a lovely beach with a couple of rows of breakers rolling in from the Tasman. We had a good night there, eating at the local Motel - and a fine meal it was too - with big bottles of Lion Red and Speights. Old school. An early start awaited the riders with Greame and I heading into Kaitaia to the Repco which opened at 9:00AM to buy a battery - and they had almost the right one. Back in Ahipara, battery fitted, and the Starship Enterprise roared into life.

Kauri Museum, Matakohe
The Kauri Museum, at Matakohe, near Dargaville.

We wasted no time getting on the road and heading for the meeting point in Dargaville. The others had gone via the Rawene ferry and the Waipoua Forest, paying their respects to Tane Mahuta a giant Kauri tree.

Graeme and I took a different route through Kaikohe and down the Twin Bridge road. That was well worth it too, another great riding road find. When we arrived in Dargaville, we pulled over and Graeme said "I'm just going to txt the others" I said "Don't bother here they are". Our timing and positioning had again fallen precisely into place - Brian finding us at the restaurant in Matakana on Thursday night, Lou at the BP in Awanui on Saturday, and then all of us reuniting at Dargaville. Lunch in Ruawai and off to Auckland so the rental bikes can be handed back by 5:00PM, we had time to take Hwy 16 from Wellsford, another great road, closer to home. Actually with all the times I've ridden that road I had never done it going South - its different - but still a great road. We stopped in Kaukapakapa for an icecream - well I didn't - I just stopped, dead.

Now it was time to abandon me in Kaukapakapa while I waited for a ride back to the city to pick up a trailer and then come back to pick up the bike. Thanks Nick and Tim for helping with that. Dropped off at Coleman's on Monday - I found that the problem was the stator, which seems to be the most expensive part on the motor :-(


Had an awesome time guys, really had a blast, with the discovery of new roads to ride, and having fun times with some really great guys.

Bring on Next Year!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fishing Trip Waiheke 2010

The Biggest Storm in the World

The NZHerald said "It was the biggest storm in the world" and so what better time to go on our fishing trip - the fishing trip we had been waiting all year to go on... the fishing trip that had been the focus of our Internet browsing and our credit card reconciliations. So Friday afternoon (17th Sept) we went, charging off down the harbour in 25 knots towards our first safe haven - Home Bay Motutapu, sheltered from the strong westerly gales. We thought.

Waiheke, Anita Bay
Looks perfect in the lee of Anita Bay - it was ;-)

I say 'safe' haven but it turned out to be a bit of a trial, with winds forecast to 70 knots ripping over the hill to pound down on us at anchor... all night long. At one stage we were pushed over so that the cupboards emptied and the boat was pushed sideways through the water. In the dark we checked our bearings and found that we had been pushed into the next bay entirely, and now had 6 inches of water under the keel and were swinging towards the rocky shore. We quickly fired up the engine and motored up into the bay as close as possible - then spent the night half awake checking that the boat was not dragging anchor. The joys.

Kerkira is a 30 foot Lotus (9.2) and I upped the specs on the anchor tackle so I have a 35lb CQR anchor, 15M of heavier than required chain, and also upped the diameter of the nylon anchor warp. Normally I just check its all in place and go to sleep - but this was a real eye-opener.


We survived the night and headed down to the bottom end of Waiheke to our fishing spot in Man O War Bay and put 6 snapper in the fridge. Roger landed the first fish. Next day we tried a few spots and had a go with the scallop dredge - I don't think we even got an empty shell - just mud, starfish and old broken mollusc shells. Back to our fishing spot near the green channel marker for a couple of dinner snapper, and tucked up again in Opopo Bay, Waiheke for the night.

Anita Bay

The day was mostly clear, but with the odd shower and the wind still whistling (at least not howling) through the rigging - we went around to Anita Bay, where we anchored close to the rock, with a good safety margin for the swing around - which we did, with the NE wind leaving us relatively sheltered.
Waiheke Snapper, Anita Bay
Fishing was good, with a number of good fish landed including an 8lb, and 2x 5.5 lb snapper. We tried a few different methods including lures and fresh bait. They seemed to go for a cocktail of squid and bonito - and using the light soft-bait rod and reel, I could feel every bit of interst on the other end of the line. The light gear with braid and flouro is definately the way to go.

North Harbour, Ponui

Monday and Tuesday we spent in North Harbour (Chamberlains Bay) where we kept out of the weather, and didn't go too far abroad. We had a look around the corner into Bryants Bay, but it was a bit exposed with the wind turning quite Southerly. Staying in the protection on the Bay was fine, although we could see the wind whipping up the water into a swirling mist just out in Ruthes Passage.

Heading Back

Wednesday we did a bit more fishing up in Man O War Bay, catching a couple of snapper and a nice Gurnard, and finding a spot back in Opopo Bay. Thursday was scheduled for better weather and lower winds, so we were up early and made the run back to Westhaven while we could.

I was a great week despite the high winds and rain that saw us get the biggest snapper we had landed, and having a relaxing break - tinged with adventure. We survived the biggest storm in the world, caught plenty of fish and drank plenty of beer - we didn't break anything and we had a great time talking about fishing and motorbikes and listening to the marine weather forecast over and over. Actually scratch that last one...


Monday, August 30, 2010

Richmond Yacht Club Summer Series

Winter must be passing - the Richmond Yacht Club, who sail on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour certainly think so. The winter series is behind us and the summer begins real soon - officially on Wednesday 29th September.

We will be out again - see the post at Kerkira-Racing.

Looking forward to some new quotes too - but to refresh your minds, here is a sampling:

  • Ian "Creamy Havarti or Gruyere?"
  • Dave: "We're all over them, like hair on soap"
  • Someone else "We are trying to start, you know..." and "Starboard!"
  • John "Where's the pole?"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Metzeler M5 at Hampton Downs

What a glorious winters day! I took photos in the afternoon - I was kinda busy in the morning ;-)

I headed over to Dave's early arriving around 7:00AM - my fingers were absolutely frozen - my soft riding gloves are not for winter mornings. We loaded the bikes on the hire trailer, broke the ice away from the car windscreen (I kid you, not), and swooshed in luxury (and warmth) down to Hampton Downs (where the California Superbike School operates) to a day put on by the Hampton Downs Rideday crew.

Hampton Downs puts on a spectacular day in the Waikato.

Chicken Strips Gone

Some posts ago I was talking about the new Metzeler M5 Interact tyres that I had won at the Taupo Motott weekend in April - well they got their first outing at the track, just to round out the experience, and of course, the review.

I had said before that the tyres gave me great confidence with their grip, and on the excellent Hampton Downs track surface they did not let me down. What a fantastic day - great for the soul! The tyres: The morning was cold and the day was clear, so the track would be heating up later, but for the first outing (6x 20mins throughout the day) I dropped the pressures to 30psi and completed 2 full rounds before getting brave. The tyres never let me down - you could feel them heat up and by the third pass the Ducati was on rails.

I quickly dispatched the chicken strips on the right side of the tyre - Hampton Downs is flush with right hand turns - and I had to work hard to get the left side. Whatever... that wasn't the point of the rideday - I felt comfortable and confident with traction always available.

Funnily enough I have Metzeler Marathon 880's on the cruiser - and they also gave excellent service at Hampton Downs back in November last year when I did my first California Superbike School level.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Floating Dock Westhaven

Time to do the maintenance before the summer comes - so Queen's Birthday this year was mostly spent on the floating dock at Westhaven, Auckland. Kerkira is a Lotus 9.2 (30ft) - a cruising design with a Bukh 20hp diesel powering a saildrive unit.

Floating Dock Westhaven
An excellent service at Floating Dock Services 09) 379 0934

This year the sacrificial anode on the sail-drive needed to be changed - I note that the rate of corrosion of the zinc anode doesn't seem as high as a couple of years ago when I was on the pile moorings. Of course the anti-fouling and touch-ups around the hull were the other out-of-the-water jobs. The weather was not good for the long weekend, which curtailed some of the tasks I could do outside, but managed a couple of good layers of No. 5 Seaport Blue where it counts.

On a boat / on a boat... the floating dock was certainly exposed to the rolling waves coming into the Westhaven Marina precinct from the North, however everything was fine and the floating dock provided a stable working platform.

Mike, who is looking after the dock while Ken is recuperating was very accommodating and we left the floating dock on the Monday morning.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Heat Pumps and Family Energy Usage

We are with Mercury Energy, and you can download your power bills and get your energy usage. I have graphed ours over the past 3 and a half years. This is 2 adults and 2 adult children, living in Auckland.

Click the graph to enlarge it.

Its obvious that the heat pumps made a direct impact on the electricity usage when we put them in at the end of June last year. Since November 2009 we have dropped to 2 adults and no kids, so we hope to keep the power consumption down to under 20 KW Hrs per day.

I have linked to a copy of my Energy Usage Spreadsheet [MyEnergyUsage.xls EXCEL 43KB]

The Mercury Energy price plans can be checked using this wizard.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Metzeler M5 Interact

I have the tyres on the bike! I decided to wait a couple of weeks until the Metzeler M5's came into the country, and they duly arrived and were fitted by Haldanes to my black Ducati 916 on Friday.

Thanks again to Chris Mitchell Motott and Malcolm Gray at Forbes and Davies for having this great prize available. That's great support from the industry back to us riders.

The weekend was meant to be wet, but turned out to be just grey and overcast, but no rain - apart from a sprinkle overnight Saturday.

Mother's Day

And Sunday was Mother's Day after all... I had to go and see my Mum - it was just a matter of deciding the route ;-)

View Larger Map

I stopped at Manurewa to check the warmth of the tyre - they were evenly warm across the tyre running 32psi F 36psi R, a little bit of motorway, but basically town running - so no hard braking or cornering. I was breaking them in after all, so I was taking things carefully. Once on the road through Clevedon to Kawakawa Bay I started to lean on them a bit more. The road over the hill to Kaiaua was wet (I guess from the night before) so I was very careful not to push the fresh tyres in the damp conditions. Once over and running along the Kaiaua coast I found that the grip was growing and after a couple of 'push' feelings through the front, the bike was feeling very solid under me.

A stop in Ngatea and the tyres had definitely warmed up - they were quite hot to hold on to, and that heat was evenly distributed across the tyre - even accounting for the straight roads leading into Ngatea.

This is the before shot - delivery km's only.

The road back was up to Kaiaua, through Mangatawhiri and Hunua and home. The tyres really came in and I was comfortable and in control. That being the case, I was also relaxed and the bike, suspension and ride seemed smoother and easier than ever. I put that down to the tyres. I am looking forward to pushing them a bit more at a trackday.

Ferrari Scuderia

A cunning likeness to a Ferrari Scuderia I met at Mangatangi.

Leaving Kaiaua there was a car in the distance, and usually they get closer - but this time it stayed in the distance - this had to be investigated, so picking up the pace a little I caught my quarry and then went ah hah! - it was a Ferrari... all 500bhp of it.

To you Mother's everywhere - have a nice day!
I was a bit cheeky turning up at lunchtime - thanks Mum.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Supercity Logo vs Villian

The Auckland Supercity logo has been chosen, so we are going to play a little game of "One of these things is not like the other".

Supercity Competition

Can you guess which one of the above is the odd one out?

Here are some hints to get you going...
  • Governance
  • Cost Savings
  • Unity
  • Economic Growth
  • Future Domination
  • Lovely Trees
  • Executive Power
  • Competing on World Stage
  • Size Matters

Tricky eh!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Taupo Motott Track Day

As noted in an earlier post, we had a fantastic day at Taupo, with great weather and fine company! There were those who may have wished they had stayed at home...

Out but Not Down

Ducati at Taupo turn 14
As noted regarding the knee-sliders which remain in pristine condition, I was trying to get the knee down and have yet to master the technique, although I am sure that it is just a matter of coordinating a few muscles with a few brain-cells... I'd better hurry then...

Down but Not Out

It is critical to warm up the tyres to ensure that they can provide the traction performance that we require, so the first couple of rounds when the tyres are cool, we don't want to ask too much. Regarding traction and cornering, there is, from a physics point of view, a certain amount of dynamic traction available to us as we charge into a turn - potentials available to us tyres, surface, suspension, our COG and then steering, braking (speed) and body position inputs that we make as riders.
Ducati at Taupo
OK so 'charging in' probably wasn't the right term... but from time to time the environment we ride in can be challenging - an unexpected reducing radius, some dodgy road surface or even a race track where we are able to go as fast as physics allows... It was only later in reviewing the photos that I saw that someone quite close behind me was doing his own experiment with physics and losing.

Eyes Front

Interestingly you may note the rear view mirrors are on the Ducati in this shot. Later in the day (see first photo and below) I removed the mirrors and thereby the temptation to look behind, when all in front is where my attention should be.
Ducati at Taupo home straight

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ducati at Taupo MotoTT Track Day

I have been to watch car racing at Taupo when the A1GP was running there - such a shame that it is no longer coming, it was a fantastic weekend of motorsport at a great venue. I have always liked the 3.3km Taupo Motorsprt Park track and then I realised that I could ride it on a MotoTT Track Day! The weather had been clear for so long that as the 10th of April drew nearer I was checking the Metservice every day.

The plan was for Dave and I to take the bikes down on a trailer Friday night and be ready and fresh for Saturday morning at the track. We stayed at the Bella Vista in Taupo which was very comfortable. With the two Ducati's in tow and a fine crisp Taupo morning we downed our Up-and-Go and headed for scrutineering - I admit to feeling a bit nervous in the stomach at the thought of tearing around Taupo, but once there and in our garage (yes garage!) there was only one thing on our minds.
I think it was Steve Spangler who put it so well... "Brrrm brrrrmmm"

Two cats waiting to spring. The yellow dot on the screen signifying Group 2.

The riding was superb! and the track was more than I had expected... its weird, you go there and watch others going around and you watch the big screens, study the youtube videos and the track maps - but until you get out there you really don't appreciate where the track is going. That turn 11 before the main straight I had always seen as a sweeper, not a reasonably tight decreasing radius corner, and the chicane before the front straight was alot more open than I had expected, although I did get caught out early on and arrive way to deep into T13.

We met Moonlight and his son Max, and we got them into our garage. Max is riding one of the new Hyosung 250 EFI bikes - a very good rider too!

The highlight of the day was still to come however... MotoTT have been running a draw for a set of Metzeler tyres since January - and I won them. Yes, $700 worth of tyres for the Ducati. I think that I will go for the new Sportec M5 Interact which are due in the country at the end of April.

I did make a purchase at the track, from QMoto, a set of knee sliders. I can report they are in pristine condition - maybe next time I will get-the-knee-down, as they say.

The thing that I was missing was lock-on... I need some grip on the tank. Dave has Stompgrip on the 998s and it feels really firm and secure (in the garage). I have some Techspec Gripster tank traction pads coming soon hopefully, so I will be able to give a review once they are on, and I have my next track day sorted.

There were 6 sessions in the day, and we left after the 5th - it was a long day, and the sun was getting quite low. Still, that is a good days riding, and after having done my first track day there, will be looking forward to another opportunity.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Central Otago Rail Trail in March 2010

Otago Rail Trail
An amazing landscape unfolds for you as you ride the Central Otago Rail Trail through a beautiful and strangely empty country that echoes of the gold fields prosperity of the past.

The Otago Rail Trail

We read up as much as we could online, bought books and borrowed books from the library - consuming as much information as we could get our hands on:
  • Where is it
  • How to get there
  • When to go
  • Where to stay
  • Hiring gear...

The Route

The Rail Trail runs between Clyde and Middlemarch, travelling 150km (just over 90 miles) through Central Otago - an area that saw many people make or break their fortunes back in the 1800's. The terrain is dry because the weather that comes over the Tasman Sea from the West drops all its rain on Fiordland and the Southern Alps (as many who have been to Milford Sound will know - in excess of 8m (26ft) of rain per year!) With the Trail being a ex-railway line, there is no part of the incline that is greater than 1 in 50 - so that the trail is quite manageable by those of average fitness and from 8yrs to 80yrs - luckily I qualify - at least in age. You pass through layers of hills each one with a perfect valley in between - some being quite wide and flat, others are gorges with a river or stream flowing below.

What direction

We went from Clyde to Middlemarch - and I would recommend this direction due to the prevailing wind which has westerly intentions. We met some people who were battling against the wind on their first day up from Middlemarch, with still plenty of uphill to go.
Otago Rail Trail

Getting to the Start

If starting from Clyde, then there are a few choices, depending on whether you are from the South Island and driving, or from the North (or elswhere) and using public transport. The airport in Queenstown is international and buses will take you to Clyde from Queenstown itself. That's what we did. We met people who had parked at Middlemarch and bused to Clyde so that they had their car/campervan waiting at the end of the trail. There is a train from Dunedin and there are days when it goes all the way to Middlemarch (Fridays/Sundays). We saved the train ride to the end of the trip, so we ended up in Dunedin at the end of the fourth day.
Otago Rail Trail

Places to Stay on the Rail Trail

The way we did it:
  • Saturday: Flew Akl -> Queenstown, bus to Clyde, stayed at Dunstan House in Clyde, where we picked up our bikes.
  • Sunday: Started the trail, lunched at Chatto Creek and spent the night at Blacks Hotel in Ophir.
  • Monday: Lunch in Oturehua, bed and dinner at the Wedderburn Tavern
  • Tuesday: All downhill, stopped Waipiata for coffee, lunch in Hyde, then onto Trails End in Middlemarch for the night.
  • Wednesday: Discovered the Sutton Salt Lake, and took the Taieri Gorge Railway trip to Dunedin.

Rail Trail distances

We intended to smooth out the trip over 4 days, loosely 40km 40km 40km and 30km making up the total 150km run. We found that upon reaching Hyde in the early afternoon we could quite easily do the last 30km down to Middlemarch. That gave us Wednesday to bike down to Sutton and explore the salt lake - in a country-side that was reminiscent (to me) of the open land in the videogame Fallout 3. In fact it was so real I expected to see a giant scorpion coming at me through the grass any minute.
Otago Rail Trail

Money money money...

We hired the bikes from Ranfurly Bike Hire including panniers. We were carrying all our stuff - although you could get your bags shipped from place to place to be ready for you at a small fee, it was fine to be carrying all our clothes etc. Actually I think it felt better - no clutter, no bags on the plane - only carry on. I would definitely recommend Ranfurly. We contacted them and told them where we would like to stay and our intention to take the train to Dunedin, and they did all the booking for NO FEE.
Otago Rail Trail
Everything worked like clockwork... even my legs ;-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2010 Suzuki Boulevard Rally Napier

The eagerly awaited sequel to last years Boulevard Rally in Hanmer, this year we had the rally in the North Island, in the world renown wine growing Hawkes Bay region - in the city of Napier. And the weather turned out to be excellent with warm clear days for riding the slightly more than 400 kms to our destination. The plan was to meet up in Te Rapa - assembling at Boyd Motorcycles and from there through Kihikihi, Mangakino and Whakamaru to Taupo for lunch. We took some roads past Mangakino that I hadn't been on before - beautiful country-side. Probably in the region of 120 bikes. The reported total in Napier was 152.

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A little drama after our second stop when one rider dropped his bike on a corner while running a bit wide - that sobered the team up a bit but heading towards Taupo on that great Pohipi Rd across the top of lake Taupo I relaxed a little and let the bike have its head. I had stopped for breakfast at Bombay, where I gassed up - so I ran with the petrol warning light flashing for the final 30 kms into Taupo. Taupo ;lunch was put on at the Suncourt Hotel and Conference Centre - and well... I guess bikers aren't meant to be vegetarians so not much for me ;-( however I made do by pulling out the ham and eating more cake ;-)

The ride through to Napier had a little more spirit with some of the nicest sweepers around delivered on the Napier-Taupo Highway.

The gathering at East Pier was drinks, dinner and drinks with old friends and new friends - prizes and a bit of showing off - all good fun. Also a chance to catch up with buddies from the Cruiser Group.

Sunday morning I'm guessing there would have been a few sore heads, but by 10:00 AM with 152 Boulevard cruisers in Napier the cafe's were full of bikers eating breakfast and gulping coffee - getting ready for the ride home. I did a few circuits of town and having planned to go home to Auckland via Gisborne ended up retracing my steps (wheel ruts?) from the day before. However, once in Kihikihi (near Te Awamutu) I remembered the road across to Cambridge and headed off that way.

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I used to go that way back to Auckland from New Plymouth - you hook up with Highway 27 through Tahuna... anyway a great ride on top of a great weekend.

Next time hoping for a pillion.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Auckland Apartment available

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Use the Contact Us form to let them know your contact information and the dates you would prefer for your stay.

Monday, March 15, 2010

California Superbike School Level 3

Totally organised... what can I say..?!!!
Dave had the trailer organised, cool hold-down straps, ramps, pit-tent, chairs, luxury tow-wagon... I supplied the black Ducati 916 to go with the red Ducati 998s, which he so generously supplied as well.

California Superbike School Level 3

Level 3 was very physical, and very rewarding.

The drills format was different from L1 and L2 because the 'classroom' was a bike, and California Superbike School Australia Managing Director Steve Brouggy telling us the difference between the Lock-on and the Lock-up!! - and he has such smooth hands too... thank goodness for 1.4mm of prime Brazilian cowhide! aka my Teknic Chicane leathers ;-)

You can see the bike set up in the background under the curved roof.

On track, the format was the same as before with a single gear and no brakes building to full on gears and brakes by the end of the day. I am well on top of the Ducati by this time, and the clutch was solid throughout the day after some tender love and care, a small bottle of brake fluid and some 1500 grit wet-and-dry. During Level 2 of the Superbike School I had trouble keeping any clutch at all, which while circulating wasn't a real problem, more a distraction, the stopping and starting were more... difficult. As was noted by our ride coach, the point of the day wasn't to go as fast as you could on the straights, it was learning about you and the bike and the physical refinements and body work at and before you get to the corners - to increase corner speed, confidence and be consistent. He was on the Suzuki GSXR 600 which meant that he had to try quite hard to keep up with the bigger bikes on the straights. Having said that though, once you get the feel of the drive out of the corner from a well executed Hook Turn, you must be forgiven for continuing to wind it on...

Try folding your arms and then quickly changing left-to-right. Very tricky - if you can do it at all. Getting your left adductor muscles to fire with the right arm counter-steer and vice versa is one such challenge.

Once you have it, the power you have to steer with is enormous and you stay well balanced throughout, meaning that you don't suffer any of the natural body twist that comes with the forceful quick steering. By the end of the day we were physically and mentally tired and buzzing from a great day learning to ride a motorcycle.

I feel I can't say too much about the California Superbike School at Hampton Downs - Level 1 at least is mandatory for everyone on 2 wheels. Give Darren or Rachel Sweetman a call - they even have Gift Vouchers for your loved ones. Can't wait for the track photos to come out... sometime in March.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hampton Downs Superbike Level 2

My last post on the subject of Hampton Downs was how I had been the only cruiser at the California Superbike School and how I had said:
[sigh - where is that Ducati 748 when I need it? - I wish...]

...well, I went back for Level 2 and instead of the red Suzuki Boulevard C90 I had my black Ducati 916 - so this was to be an education on cornering as well as learning to ride on a full on sports bike. The USS Enterprise was at left at home, and the Evil Stig took the stage.

Evil Stig

Level 2 of the Superbike School was different from the first, in that we were all in no doubt that we would learn as much or more about riding a motorcycle than we knew so far... and we weren't disappointed! The format was similar, with the early no-brakes rounds opening our mouths, eyes and eventually minds to the track and getting us focussed on where we were and where we were going next.

This time there were no floor-boards scraping on the track, and there were large handfuls of throttle and the seemingly never-ending acceleration available from the Ducati 916. It was just fantastic to be able to twist the wrist and just... fly...

The flying part was fine but there was a small problem with the clutch that was a little distracting - there was no clutch. While changing up or down the gears was not a problem, coming to a stop meant finding neutral and coasting back down pit-lane. I had some very good help from Bernard, the mechanic on site, it didn't fix the problem for long. BTW thanks Bernard you were awesome! I have since given the slave cylinder some love and replaced the fluids, which were full of moisture and dirt.
Riding home was entertaining and thank goodness for riding buddies Ivan and Dave who had to push start me at the lights when we hit civilisation ;-)

The next training days are in March, and that is going to be too soon for me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coromandel Field Trip

Three Ducati's and two Yamaha's took to the Coromandel for lunch in sunny Whangamata.

Ducati Field Trip

Having only had a short ride through Clevedon so far on my new black Ducati 916 I was really looking forward to getting out on a real ride to get to know the bike better, and to test my fitness for riding a sports bike. That opportunity came with Ivan hankering for a ride and planning a nice trip through the country-side with lunch at Whangamata and lots of Waikato and Coromandel roads to tame.

We started from the Mobil on Greenlane Rd, down the main highway to Ohinewai where we turned off and headed for Tahuna. That stretch of road is very good riding, with excellent sweeping turns and quick straights - and only the odd tractor or two ;-) The thing to remember about country riding is to be very aware that every gate could produce a tractor, a farm bike or a herd of cows - at any moment! That said, we made good progress on warm dry roads towards Tahuna, and then Paeroa. Gassed up and photo taken it was off through the Karangahake Gorge to Waihi and on to Whangamata for lunch. I left my sunglasses at the petrol station in Paeroa, which meant I was back there at around 3:30PM to pick them up.

Dave and I decided to find our own pace to Whangamata which meant that we arrived there and had lunch ordered before we received an alarming txt from Ivan:
"I'm going back now somebody went off leaving intersection with Tairua Rd"
I tried to believe it was that they had gone off the wrong way - not that they had gone off the road... Turns out the R1 did a bit of 'field work' after leaving Waihi. Rider was OK and bike saved by the knobs. I was very impressed that the damage had been kept so minimal. He will be picking grass out of a few strange places for a while though, I bet.

Lunch done it was up the road towards Tairua and a left turn to get us over the Kopu-Hikuai road. I was really loving the Ducati, and I was getting the love back.

I left the guys at Kopu, so I could show off the Ducati to my family and pick up my sun glasses (!) I headed up through Kaiaua to home, stopping to see a very good mate in Kaiaua, and as the time went on the clouds gathered... so I had a few spots of rain to contend with on the way home. Just as I thought the rain had set in, I was back in Auckland sunshine for the remainder of the trip past Mangatawhiri to home - where we wouldn't mind if it did rain a bit (at night eh!).

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I was a bit tired after the 450kms but not sore or aching from my new position - poised over one amazing motorcycle.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Black Ducati 916 Monoposto

There is a new beast prowling the streets of Mt Eden, and it is currently resting in the garage - my beautiful black Ducati 916. And it sounds awesome too with a pair of carbon termignoni's pumping - nah - throbbing behind - making sweet Ducati music.

I picked her up this morning and after a couple of hours riding out to Clevedon and back through Whitford I know I have made the right decision. And as hardened cruiser-boy I was able to ride very comfortably without getting pains in my wrists like I have after even short rides on other sports bikes. Just awesome.