Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 Boulevard Rally - Rangitikei Rumble

The weekend of 23-25th March 2012 was the date set for the Suzuki Boulevard Rally for 2012, with the destination being Palmerston North and the glorious roads of Rangitikei - Manawatu.

Boulevard Rally Ride Down

We met at the Bombay BP for the ride down to registration for the rally - leaving at 8:00AM and hoping to arrive sometime between 5:00PM and 6:00PM. That meant getting up at 5:30AM in order to get packed and leave the house with enough time to gas up before the first group ride.
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Google says the journey is 530KM (around 330M)
After 10 days watching the weather forecasts and the day finally dawning - it was so good to be riding on dry roads. The long range forecasts had foretold rain-rain-rain, and as we left Auckland, we rode into fine weather, which stayed with us for the weekend, barring a few spots through the Paraparas on Saturday afternoon.
Regarding whether my Shoei visor has UV filtering? - no - I needed sunscreen even through quite a dark tinted visor - by the time we stopped at Ohingaiti Hotel I could really feel the heat on my face. With the dark visor you think you are OK... is it so hard to put UV filter in a visor?
From our meeting at the BP at Bombay we rode through to Cambridge for our first break, then onto Taupo for lunch and a gas top-up at Turangi. My Suzuki Boulevard C90 has a 14 litre tank, which does up to 250km on the open road, but only around 165km commuting in Auckland. Our next stop was the Ohingaiti Hotel, a quick breather and a cold beer - most welcome!
Ohingaiti Hotel - a welcome and bike-friendly stop on the way South
As we proceeded down the country we picked other riders up in Cambridge, Tirau and Taupo with our numbers reaching around 45 bikes by the time we made registration at Freedom Suzuki in Palmerston North. All up the registrations were around 180 bikes and 220 people counting riders and pillions. Great to see all the pillions - mostly wives and partners, with at least two fathers that I know of sharing-the-love with their sons onboard.

After coffee and conversation it was off to our lodgings for dinner and bed after one long ride and in preparation for the next - the Rangitikei Rumble on Saturday. I booked myself into the Kingsgate in Fitzherbet Ave using Wotif. Once checked in I decided to find a beer and take a walk around the town. I wandered around the Square and back towards the hotel - stopping at Rosie O'Grady's Bar for a beer. As I tweeted, when I asked if they had any NZ craft beer - thinking there might have been something local - I got back a blank stare and "Whats that?". I settled for a Kilkenny (in an Irish Bar - go figure). I met some of the riders at the hotel bar, and we adjourned for a very nice dinner and conversation at the hotel restaurant.

Luana Payne Heels-on-Wheels who works and reviews for Motorcycle Trader was there too - doing a review on the new C50 - a nice two-tone version. I suspect there will be a review out there soon.

The 2012 Suzuki Boulevard Group Ride

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The route for the group ride
Saturday dawned, breakfast was eaten and we were off to Freedom for the muster before riding some very scenic and great motorcycling roads through to Raetihi and back via Wanganui and the Parapara's. This was the first time the whole group was together, and a time to catch up with old friends and people I only know from previous Boulevard encounters. This ride was going to be a real treat for me as I haven't really been on any other than main roads in the region, and the chance to be guided around some beautiful North Island country roads was not to be missed.
Rangiwahia Main Street - bemused locals came out to see what all noise was about - the rumble... note the light shining from heaven...
And riding with a big group? Its always a balance between the "Flying Wedge" and the "Procession" - in other words... a large group of motorcycles cruising fast and monstering everyone else on the road, or slow single file hell with someone in front of you that brakes in unexpected places. I must say most of the time I could concentrate on my own riding and not that of the guy or gal in front of me - and the smaller 250cc and 650cc bikes were ridden very well. If you are on Hwy 1 just before Mangaweka (going South, where the DC3 aeroplane is) turn left - well worth it, these roads would be a lot of fun on a sports bike.

Raetihi School

Once through the sandstone cliffs and winding roads, and a short spurt along the main highway, we arrived at Raetihi School, who put on a feed for lunch - and a feed it was - it was amazing! We were cheered into the school by a welcoming party of kids, and we parked en-masse on the school netball courts. The school was using this as a fund-raiser to get the kids to Rarotonga for a cultural event - the food was great, the atmosphere was great, and there was a great feeling that we were there contributing to the community. Everyone was saying - how can the dinner beat this!
The netball courts at Raetihi School with brooding clouds behind.

The Parapara

The legendary Parapara's - part of Hwy 4 which runs from Te Kuiti through to Wanganui. We joined Hwy 4 at Raetihi and following our lunch at the school we headed out onto one of the must-do rides in the North Island. The mix of twisties, and sweeping corners is a bikers dream - and unlike my last trip down this road which was to the 2009 Boulevard Rally, I didn't have a broken arm and endless road-works to contend with. As you coax the big bike through the tight corners you get a good workout, and if you really lean hard on that inside handle-bar as you accelerate through the corner you can really feel the magic of cornering a motorcycle, that all bikers cherish.

We had a few spots of rain heading into Wanganui, but that didn't affect the riding. The blast back through to Bulls and Palmerston North from Wanganui was more along the 'flying-wedge' type of riding, and possibly a bit of steam was let off on the more open straight roads.
At Bulls: This was not the venue for our Boulevard dinner...

Dinner with the Boulevards

One of the reasons I chose to stay at the Kingsgate was that the bus to the Racecourse picked up and dropped off there. The dinner is always a highlight of the weekend, and a chance to catch up with friends over a meal and a beer, or possibly two. With the usual prize-giving and hi-jinks (fluffy-bunnies which became flubby-buddies in no time thanks to the large sized marshmallows) the evening went very quickly. The band (rightly called The Boulevards) playing on to an energetic dance-floor, as the smokers outside, probably over-represented in this group, discussed the merits of this tyre against that, and the new bling they were going to add to their bike next.

There are a few pictures of the night on the Suzuki Facebook site.

The Ride Home

I met Moonlight (Paul W) at Cafe Cuba for breakfast - which needed to be anything fried and on toast - and with a couple of coffees under my belt we rumbled out of town for the 500 or so kms home to Mt Eden, Auckland.
The Desert Rd and our bikes in the foreground and the quiet Mount Ruapehu at the back.
We met many of the crew on the way back, everywhere we stopped, every cafe and gas station along Hwy 1 seemed to have 3 to 10 bikes out front. We stopped for lunch at Taupo and caught up with a few people, and then continued home - arriving just in time to collapse on the couch with a cold beer - lucky that...

The weekend was a complete success! Thanks to everyone involved, including those motorists who pulled over to let this empty-nest hooligan ride by ;-)

Cheers, John Hamilton-Smith (windingroad)

1 comment:

Amelia said...

I'm sure I have a photo that was taken in the same spot :)