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!