Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Show us your pinky!

There are those who watch our group of 'motorcycle heritage enthusiasts' who think that our reason for 'being' is to sample a range of cafes in the region. Whilst we can pass comment on a wide and varied range of eateries there are a range of reasons we get out as a group and wander around the countryside. Last Sunday saw a smallish group of us take to the roads in the southwest of our region. Whilst much was on over the ranges in Tararua with the motocross and Wheels with Attitude get together in Dannivegas and Woodville, our humble group decided on a quieter time in the Manawatu. Ably led by Warren on his GT380 we followed his spannies out of town towards Taikorea. His many years as a telecommunications technician have certainly given him a great knowledge of the roading network in the region and as whistled along the Manawatu plains he was able to find us a surprisingly good range of corners to enjoy. Also along for the run today was Terry on his armchair like Honda GL500 Wing. It looks like he has sorted out some of the issues with starting and it purred along showing some good pace at times. Sir Al brought out his VFR800 for a play and after last weekends run to Pongaroa on his Kawasaki 350 Bighorn I am sure it was a far more relaxing ride. Bruce S rode his Aprilia RS250 up from Levin he appreciated finding out from Warren a few more interesting roads closer to home. Yours truely on the XJ750 certainly enjoyed the cooling effect of 100kmph+.
In no time at all Warren had us parking alongside the Horsemans Cafe in Shannon. The heat by this stage was getting very intense and inspite of this hot coffees and tea were ordered alongside cafe staples like carrot cake, custard squares and quiche! The large lattes were handled with practiced 'pinky' ease. One of the conversation around the table reflected on how this particular ride across the plains provides such a different riding experience to our usual ones. Having such large vista gives you a grander appreciation of the countryside we ride through with the Ruahine Ranges to the north east, Tararua Ranges to the south and on a good day Mount Ruapehu and Taranaki to the north. Being on a motorcycle through this countryside is a unique experience as you take in not only the sights but also the sounds and smells. It is very visceral and sharing with others who enjoy experiencing it in this way creates a special pool of memories and yes that does include the cafes we stop at as well!
 With the food and beverages despatched we reluctantly put our gear back on for the ride home. Bruce disappeared south to Levin and the rest of us made our way back to Palmy via Tokomaru. With Warren and Sir Al leading the way the sight of Sir Al heading the opposite way and Warrens 380 pulled up with a side cover off on Fitzherbert Ave didn't bode well. Long story short, Warrens gear change lever fell off and Sir Al thought he knew where it was because something flicked up and nearly nailed him as he was following him! He thought it was road debris and it didn't take him long to find it! A lot of luck all round! With the side cover off it was nice to see an adequate supply of two stroke oil in it. eh Warren! Also nice to not have to go all the way home in second gear!
It was an unexpected way to complete the ride, but like all these incidents it adds to our unique pool of shared experiences. It is also adding to the list of of suitable candidates for the 'Oh Shit Award'. Time to organise a Blue Haze BBQ!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Not Another Damn Corner!

It has been a while since I have ventured over the hill and pointed the sycle in an easterly direction. The arrival of Sir Als email suggesting part of Wellington Anniversary weekend be spent swinging through a few bends in the Tararua district certainly got my attention as well a few others. The forecast fine weather and 27 degrees certainly spurred interest with a dozen bikes lining up outside Manawatu Motorcycles. The lunchtime destination of the Pongaroa Hotel is always a popular choice with some great hospitality at very reasonable prices with excellent facilities. The other huge plus as a destination is the recent fuel pumps that have been installed with the support of the local community. If you are riding some of the popular Blue Haze two strokes their limited fuel capacity can be rather challenging at times so fuel facilities take on some importance. Some might be unkind to say that the problem isn't a capacity issue but more one of consumption! The hilly and windy nature of the countryside also requires a lot of on and off throttle which can also challenge fuel use. All part of the riding old two strokes experience I say!
It was an interesting mixture of 12 bikes and riders who lined up on Andrew Young street outside Manawatu Motorcycles. Some of the older bikes were early seventies two strokes with Rich on his T500, Paul d out on his GT750 and Sir Al out on the now very 'trusty' Bighorn Kawasaki. Kim d had his Yamaha 3XV (Nickname: The Radio Station), with Bruce A on his lovely VFR750, Ian on his VX800, Bruce S on his GSXR 400, John on his 675 Speed Triple and your truly on the XJ750. It was great to have the Classic lads along for a spin as well. Graeme was on his 1200 Bonnie,  Ray on his Triumph 800 speed triple and eventually Paul on his Guzzi 850! (Caught up with us in Pongaroa) The trip out of town was was uneventful except for the usual cloud of blue haze as we crossed the town/country divide as we headed up and over the Pahiatua Track to our first stop at Mangamaire.
With all our machinery running as intended we made our way down State Highway Two towards the Rongomai turnoff and headed into the gnarly Tararua countryside heading for Route 52.
It certainly was gnarly with a steady flow of corners that reqired plenty of attention. There was ample evidence of the quake but nothing like it was a while ago with cracks and level changes that really tested your wits and suspension. Bruce S was out the front by this stage and setting a suitably quick but cautious pace that kept us together as we snaked our way through the countryside. The Alfredton intersection arrived relatively quickly and had us up Route 52 towards our lunchtime destination. There are some lovely climbs up hills and runs through valleys as the road follows streams. Our next stop was at Tiraumea where we all checked in and after a quick natter we headed off for our lunch stop at Pongaroa.
It had been nearly two hours since we left Palmy and the lads were very parched. We could feel the temperature rising as the ride progressed so the sight of the pub was a very welcome one. It looked as though a few others were seeking beverages as well with what looked like an interesting mixture of locals and loopies (tourists). Lining up to place our orders had me wondering how the kitchen would cope with the influx, but the quick arrival of our first meals was impressive. And what meals they were! The photo of Bruce and John hoeing into them says it all. Our group was relatively large and they certainly did a good job of getting all our meals out to us without too much waiting. If you are planning on going to Pongaroa for lunch, make sure you have a light breakfast!
Once our meals had a chance to semi digest we headed back out to the bikes where the we were given two choices as to how we wanted to complete the 'loop' back to Palmy. One was back through Pahiatua over the Puketoi Range or the longer way back on Route 52 through Dannevirke. Having not traveled the latter I opted for the longer way. In the meantime Rich and Sir Al made the most of fuel pumps and topped up. Be warned that they only have diesel and 91 which isn't a problem for most, but many a two stroke owner prefers 95 octane and above and especially on a hot day. With the fueling completed and choices made we headed out of town into what was proving to be a very warm afternoon.
We knew it was getting very hot as the road was beginning to melt. Trying to avoid the 'pools' of tar certainly became important as our front ends began 'squidging' out in places and Sir Al certainly set a suitably safe pace for the conditions. This road would certainly be a lot more fun in cooler temperatures. We eventually arrived in Dannevirke where the air cooled two strokers made a beeline for the 98 octane pumps. Whilst they were filling up the rest of the troops got stuck into some drinks and found some shade. It really was a very hot day. In the meantime another one of the Blue Haze crew who hadn't come on the ride appeared at a pump on his Suzuki Freewind. Brian was loaded down with a backpack and some very long flippers overhanging his tail light. He was heading out to Akitio for an afternoon dive and planning on a late seafood dinner back in Feilding. For some reason he didn't respond to our enquiries as to his ETA back home with the paua and crayfish!
Our last leg home involved doing our best to avoid the main highway south by travelling back along the Top Grass Road route that brings you out just before Woodville and the Saddle Road. It was a straightforward run through to the Saddle Road where we bid farewell to some of the crew who decided to enter Palmy via the Pahiatua Track. Our run over the Saddle was pleasant with not to much traffic. Everyone's thoughts are for a few years time when the new 'gorge route' goes through and we can have our 'minimal traffic' Saddle Road back with its wonderful new surface. It will be an absolute hoot! Unfortunately they may decide on a much modified Saddle Road as the main route! (Sigh)
It was a great day out and for me one of those rides I will carry in my memory for some time. We are very lucky to live in a region where so many great rides are close to hand with many of them suitable for running the range of older bikes we enjoy using. From Sir Al riding his air cooled 1974 single cylinder 350 trail bike through to Graham on his 2017 Triumph Bonneville the day provided more than enough riding pleasure for everyone. Can't wait for our next run. Next Sunday I believe!