Monday, March 30, 2009

Southern Cross Update #4

Well we made it through the Haast Pass without getting wet although the roads were a bit damp in places. Just coming out Mark's Bandit clocked up it's 50,000th km so we had to stop for a photo of that and also marked the position on the GPS in case he wants to try and hit 100,000 in the same place...

From Haast we headed for Jacksons Bay but soon had to put on wet weather gear when the rain started. Easy little ride into Jacksons Bay where we rode out onto the wharf and stopped for photos etc before turning back around for Haast. Had another shower on the way out but by the time we got to Haast it was fine again and the gear had to be taken off.

A fantastic ride up the Coast - this has got to be one of the greatest rides in the country! Just one stop in Franz for a coffee before heading on to Greymouth for tea and a bed.

One more day left on the Coast, taking in Karemea before tackling the Buller Gorge and then on to Nelson for a couple of nights. We've been very lucky with the weather so I hope it holds out for another few days...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Southern Cross Update #3

Just a small day today. We left Invercargill with Meanie in tow and took a quiet ride through to Queenstown just stopping briefly at Kingston to grab some piccys of the bikes parked next to the Kingston Flyer. In Queenstown we showed Meanie where the Subway was and then parted company with him.

We then headed for Glenorchy where we tucked into our subway and enjoyed the scenery. Then it was back into Queenstown before heading for Crown Range road. The mount for the video camera broke the other day so we haven't been able to get any on bike footage so I shot ahead of Mark and stopped at a lookout to see if I could at least get him on camera. As it turned out 2 of the other rusty riders came through at the same time and I managed to get a little film.

From there we headed for the Cadrona pub for the obligatory photo stop before finally heading onto Wanaka our destination for the night. Meanie is now in Greymouth and says that the weather is great - hope the good weather hangs around so that we can enjoy the West Coast.

I've also managed to upload a few of our photos here:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Southern Cross Update #2

Day Five

Day five was just a quick ride down to Wellington to catch the Ferry and then on to Kaikoura for the night. In Wellington we met up with Meanie & Monie and spent the crossing chatting with them and other Southern X'ers. The ride down to Kaikoura was short and sweet and we also managed to catch up with Nev who we used to work with for a while.

Day Six

Day six took us down through the inland route to Cromwell for the night and involved negotiating massive long straights and some more boring riding. The only fly in the ointment was some very windy conditions in the Rakia Gorge and then some rain through the Lindis Pass. A pretty good ride all in all and it was nice to finish early at around 3:30 in the arvo.

Day Seven

The final day of the Southern Cross was truly awesome. We started early leaving Cromwell just after 7am and the ride through to Alexandra and Roxborough was spectacular - the scenery and riding is just fantastic. It was however pretty cool with the temperature display dropping to 4 degrees as we went through Ettrick - heated grips definitely pressed into service. At Edendale we turned off Highway One and took some wet back roads to Bluff bypassing Invercargill completely. When we got into Bluff at about 10am (and 2 hours early) the weather decided to pack it in and we got quite wet standing around. Eventually we headed to the Eagle to collect our badges etc and have a great meal with all the other riders. Job done!

Tomorrow we start the return trip home and are hoping that the weather stays good for us as we intend to see all of the West Coast - fingers crossed!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Southern Cross update

Well the North Island leg is all but done: all three checkpoints and just over 3,000km. Now for the really good part - the South Island! We'll be leaving Palmy at around 9:30 to catch the ferry down and a quiet pootle down to Kaikoura for the night. So what's happened so far? Well briefly:

Day One

Day One was just a quiet ride up to Gisborne. We left at just after 10 in the morning with a number of the local Kbers joining us as far as Hastings. The ride itself was a lot of fun but what Meanie, Mark and I really wanted was to just get going. So after lunch just South of Hastings that's what we did. A really great ride and only some slight misty rain and wet roads on the hills dropping into Gisborne. In Gisborne we met up with my old man and his mate for tea and generally just took it easy.

Day Two

The first day of the Southern Cross proper. We hit the road at about 9am and headed out of Gisborne in some light drizzle which pretty much stayed with us all the way to the Cape. Arriving at Te Araroa we said gidday to Dad & Goldie before hitting the gravel to the Cape itself. Once there we were just 3 bikes among 130 but eventually signed the book and were on the road again.

By now the weather had come right and the roads were drying quickly so we were having a great ride until our first incident of the trip. At some stage Mark passed an older guy on a GS BMW but no sooner had he passed and the guy sped up to keep up with us so Meanie & I just sat behind him. About 20km up the road the Beemer rider panicked going into a slow right hander and must have grabbed some front brake. Before he new what was happening he was low-siding it off the road and into the fence. Meanie and I got on the brakes, parked up and rushed to help. Initially the rider was motionless which was a bit scary and I turned the bike around and headed back up the road to find a cop who had been taxing one of the riders. By the time I got back the guy was on his feet and Meanie and the guy's 2 sons were trying to sort out the bike. The sent us on their way and when we caught up with them yesterday told us that their old man was fine and had managed to ride the very battered Beemer to Taupo - pretty lucky.

The rest of the ride over was uneventful except for a lot of roadworks - some of which were very nasty. We took a detour from Bennydale and ended up doing Ramaroa Road which is a great bit of road although it was a bit tricky with the low sun doing it's best to hide all the corners. We ended up in Inglewood at somewhere around 8:30 where my sister had tea waiting for us - awesome!

Day Three

In the morning we met up with Meanie in Stratford and headed for the Cape. Enjoyed some great back roads on our way and ended up at the checkpoint about 1 and a half hours early. Book signed and we were on the road again and had a great run through Mt Messenger and the Awakino Gorge. More fuel at Otorohanga before heading North and eventually being caught up in Auckland traffic - doh!

North of Auckland and the traffic got better so we just kept on going making use of all the daylight - in the end only stopping quickly at Wellsford for gas before heading all the way to Kaitaia before having any tea. We got to our motor camp to find the office shut and no note telling us where to find our key etc - bummer! Luckily John & Steve were staying at the same place and were good enough to let us take the bunks in their room.

Day Four

This was the big one but started off slowly with a quiet ride to Hohoura to meet up with Meanie and grab a nice cooked brekkie. Stomachs full it was off to the Cape and man what a difference a year makes - a lot more tarseal and some nice toilets etc at the Cape.

Book signed again we were off in a mad tush to try and get to Auckland before rush hour - not a chance! We hit crawling traffic while still North of Auckland and had to battle it all the way through to Takanini where things finally started moving again - what a hell hole!

The next pit-stop was Ngarawahia where we fuelled up, grabbed a drink & a bite and hit the road again. A really nice ride through to Te Kuiti and then on towards Tamaraunui in the dark.

500m short of Tamarunui we were involved in the second accident of the trip and this one potentially more serious. We were following a large Mainfreight truck when around the bend came a Toyota Previa camper on the wrong side of the road. Right before my eyes he hit the left hand side of the truck and ricocheted off into the roadside grass.

I dunno how the truck stopped so quickly & safely or how we did too but when I pulled up I was right beside the Previa and could see the horrific damage to the car - I was expecting the worst for sure. Off the bike and phone out I went for the Previa while Meanie went to the truckie. I was dialling 111 when the driver in the Previa started talking to me and telling me he was ok. I tried to get him to stay where he was but he got out and only really had a few scratches on his hand. I made him sit in the grass until the ambulance arrived but he was quite with it and was fine telling me about his injuries etc. Luckily the truckie was unharmed too. Twenty minutes or so later we had handed over to the Police etc and were on our way again glad that we had not decided to pass that truck...

The rest of the ride home was quite enjoyable as there was no traffic and the roads were good. The only fly in the ointment was some quite bad fog in places - I hate fog! I eventually got in at about 11:50 and was quite happy to see my bed.

Right, now I've got to pack again for the South - bring it on!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How to wreck a Bandit


Not long now...

Yep, tomorrow is the day we head off on the start of our 3rd Southern Cross. Been looking forward to it for 2 whole years!

The route this year is East Cape - Cape Egmont - Cape Reinga - Bluff so it's a quick lap of the North Island before hitting the great South. Tomorrow we head as far as Gisborne and are going to be joined as far as Napier by some of the local Kbers who are keen to see us off in style (or maybe just keen for a nice Sunday ride).

The bikes got oil changes last weekend, routes have been loaded into the Zumo and all that's left to do is pack the bags, get geared up and go. Oh yeah, but not until tomorrow morning :-(

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Night Ride

What a great way to start a holiday - winding down with great Friday night ride. Just a quick one tonight: over the Saddle, through some back roads to Oringi and still more back roads through Hopelands to Magatainoka and finally into Pahiatua for a drink and some yarning.

Yarning complete we split up somewhat with most heading back via the main road while Supersonic, Owl & myself hit the track. It was actually a great ride back in the dark. Me leading some of the way until Supersonic went past and I followed closely behind to listen to the SV music for the rest of the way back into town.

A nice ride to get me well and truly into holiday mode and psyched for the Southern Cross!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday Pootle

Funny sort of weather today - it couldn't make up it's mind on whether to rain or be sunny. In the end it decided on a bit of both with a good dash of wind thrown in for good measure. Anyway, can't let the funny weather stop the fun so I met up with Sarge, Sarah and Bazza at Ashhurst for a wee pootle.

As it turned out Bazza's bike was having some electrical issues and he decided that he should get it home while it could still be started so the rest of us decided to follow him home just to make sure that he had no further problems. He led us off through the gorge and then some of the back roads close in the ranges to his place.

After a stop at Bazza's the three of us headed off back to the main road and then turned off at Oringi to take in Oringi and Jackson Road which is a really nice little ride. The wee Honda got blown around a bit but it was a lot of fun. At Hopelands Road Sarge headed for home while Sarah and I continued on to Pahiatua to take the track home. The track has taken a bit of a hammering in some of the slower corners but was still a lot of fun and a great way to end the ride.

Think I got the map right...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

More moving pictures

A few more snippets from last night:

Friday Night Ride

I had two extra reasons for going on the Friday night ride last night, the first being new tyres on the Connie and the second to try out my new video camera and mounts bought for the Southern Cross.

6:30 saw somewhere around 15 bikes heading out Pohangina Valley East Road and I kicked the camera into life while somewhere near the back of the back so that I could hopefully get some good footage of everyone as we wound our way through the valley. Soon I was sneaking through so I could make stars of everyone and really starting to enjoy the ride and in particular the new tyres.

Suffice it to say but the ride was fantastic with just one little stretch of new seal to slow things down and it was great fun playing camera man. We ended up in Fielding for a drink and some fantastic wedges before everyone made their way home buzzing after another great Friday night ride.

New Rubber

Finally got the old Stradas off the Connie and I've replaced them with some Michelin Pilot Road 2CT's. I've heard nothing but good news about the new rubber although have been concerned that perhaps the extra weight of the Connie may mean not so great tyre wear - although comments on the Concours forum suggest all sorts of fantastic mileage figures. I'm just going to have to wait and see how they go with my riding style etc.

But what I can confirm is that they feel absolutely great! I went out on the Friday night ride to scrub them in and they felt fantastic from the very first few kms. Personally I've felt that with both the original Bridgestones and the Stradas there is not very much feel or feedback from the front end. There was nothing wrong with the way the bike handled and the tyres stuck to the road as they should but there just wasn't that hard to define "feel". After last night I would have to say that that has changed and the bike felt simply fantastic through some tight & twisty roads.

So far it's all good - the Southern Cross is bound to test the Michelin's wet weather performance and after 6,500km or so I should have a reasonable idea on their expected life. So check back in about 4 weeks for another 2CT report...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Southern Cross Routes

Mark & I had a planning session to night and finalised our routes for the Southern Cross. We've drawn them up in Mapsource and they're loaded onto the GPS - 6,530km all up. Only a few chores and a few weeks to go until we're off! Can't wait!

Just how hot is it?

After sweating it out in over 30 degree temperatures on the Coro Loop & East Cape I thought it would be nice to know what the temperature really is as you're sweating away so I've just added an Oxford temperature gauge to the mighty Connie

It can display the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit or the time. The date is always displayed and there is also a little indicator that shows if the temperature is on the way up or down. Another feature is an ice warning when the temperature gets below 3 degrees Celsius so that could also come in handy.

After sticking it on I had a few issues with it turning itself off on me and I wondered if I had a dud one or if both batteries (comes with a spare) were poked. After playing around with it I decided that the battery must not have been making proper contact so I packed it out a little with some cardboard and it seems to be ok now.

Yep, I like gadgets!