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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

BMW F800GS Review

I'm in my Marc Coma, Kurt Caselli (RIP) mode , standing on the pegs and hauling ass (100kph which is too fast for this old man) down a backwoods dirt road. The sweeping left hander is coming up way faster than it should, and soon the back brake is locked up as the ditch becomes eerily too close for comfort. Somehow I mange to keep the bike upright and out of the ditch. I'm pretty sure it has more to do with the Bimmer's handling characteristics than my skill. The vision of yours truly as the Dakar stage winner, quickly fades to a vision of me upside down in the ditch with a severely broken BMW that isn't mine.

If you remember from my last post, I recently had the opportunity to spend all day aboard BMW's F800GS at the Fundy Adventure Rally. It was actually the perfect testing ground for an adventure motorcycle. Basically in the 11hrs of riding I encountered almost every piece of terrain that an adventure rider would ever encounter. Fast dirt logging roads, loose gravel, ATV paths, steep rocky trails and mud holes. There was even some sandy sections along the way. I also was able to ride it on paved backroads and highway.

Let me also state, that I am far from being a motojournalist, or expert rider, as shown above, and have not ridden a whole lot of bikes, other than my own. I have spent some time on a BMW G650 X-Country and a 1200GS. 

Chris Duff from BMW went over all the controls with me before relinquishing the keys. He specifically showed me how to use the ASC (traction control) and ABS, or should I say how to turn it off for use in the dirt. Pretty straight forward, however this can only be done when the bike is stationary. Any time the bike is shut off, ie, turned off with the key switch, it has be selected off again. Both the ABS and ASC default to on. The suspension can be adjusted on the fly, enduro, road and sport. I left it in enduro for the whole day. So no, I have no idea how well the traction control or the ABS work. I know from the G650, that the ABS works quite well. I doubt it's much different than the 800.

I swung my leg over the bike for the first time, and noticed how small it felt compared to my big Vstrom. The lack of fairing and small windshield, gave it almost dirt bike feel. It did feel quite natural to me, pegs and bars in the right place, not awkward like sitting on a cruiser. The one thing I did notice right away was the handgrips, they felt very narrow, not a fan. Controls were straight forward, turn signals, high beam, hazards, ASC/ABS and Mode controller on the left, heated grip controller, suspension mode controller and the start/stop switch on the right.

Speedo and tach are nicely presented and easy to read, love a dial and not digital. I'm old school I guess. The info display screen to the right of the cluster shows gear selector, fuel quantity, trip, odo, temp and mode selections. plus some other things I didn't play with or really need to know. The fuel gauge only shows the last 1/2. So the display doesn't move until below 1/2 a tank.

If you are used to riding a true dirt bike, this is gonna feel like a tank when you get on it, however for me, it was perfect for the riding we were about to do.

I'll say this, for a bike I had never ridden before I felt comfortable on it right away, I did one small blast up a paved road before heading out on the adventure rally. The mini GS has a wonderful exhaust  note, something similar to it's big brother.

Since I was videoing the rally, I took off mid pack in hopes of having to not play catch up all day. I noticed right away the 800 had a lot of low and mid-range power, accelerating through the gears was delightful, with a light clutch pull and easy shifting, which is not normally a BMW trait.

Equipped with knobbie tires the bike inspired confidence at speed, and soon I was passing slower riders without too much effort. The back brake I did find a little sensitive and at times locked up the rear unintentionally. The suspension was set at endure, so it was soft, but still handled the bumps and rough terrain nicely, never once did I feel the back end bounce around, or bottom out.

I fuelled up once in the 500km I rode, BMW says you can expect about 350-400km on a tank. That's respectable.

Low speed handling is easy, the Bimmer is well balanced, I could creep along quite slow in first gear feathering the clutch. I followed a 1200GS through a mud hole and at times had to come to an almost complete stop. I could remained balance on the bike without putting a foot down.

You do notice the weight on steep rocky downhills, and you soon realize your riding an adventure bike and not a lightweight enduro. Momentum can be an enemy too.

Would I buy one.......not to replace my Vstrom. It's just too damn comfortable. I found the GS seat painful after a long day, and for me at 6'1", I'd really need bar risers. But that's not why, because you can change those things quite easily. No, I didn't like it on the highway. 100kph plus was uncomfortable for me, which is weird because I didn't mind doing a 100kph on the gravel standing up. I just couldn't see myself doing a long highway trip comfortably on it. It seemed to struggle to accelerate above 110kph. Maybe it was my big torso wind blocking frame that did it.

Although if I were to have one bike and one bike only, it would be in my top five, that's for sure. I took it places I would never think of taking the Strom. I think the Strom could do it, but not at the same speed or confidence level, or without sustaining damage.

Ideally I want my Vstrom and another 250 dual sport for the rough stuff. Which I can have for less than the price of new 800GS.

Here are the specs courtesy of the BMW Motorad Canada website

BMW F800GS Adventure
BMW F800GS Adventure
TypeWater-cooled 4-stroke in-line two-cylinder engine, four valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts, dry sump lubrication
Bore x stroke82 mm x 75.6 mm
Capacity798 cc
Rated output63 kW (85 hp) at 7,500 rpm 
possible reduction: 35 kW (48 hp) at 7,000 rpm
Max. torque83 Nm at 5,750 rpm 
possible reduction: 63 Nm at 4,000 rpm
Compression ratio12.0 : 1
Mixture control / engine managementElectronic intake pipe injection, digital engine management (BMS-K+)
Emission controlClosed-loop 3-way catalytic converter / emission standard EU-3
Performance / fuel consumption
Maximum speed193 km/h
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 90 km/h4.3 l
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 120 km/h5.7 l
Fuel typeUnleaded super, minimum octane rating 95 (RON); optional extra 91 (RON) available
Electrical system
Alternatorthree-phase alternator 400 W (rated power)
Battery12 V / 14 Ah, maintenance-free
Power transmission
ClutchMultiple-disc clutch in oil bath, mechanically operated
GearboxConstant mesh 6-speed gearbox integrated into crankcase
DriveEndless O-ring chain with shock damping in rear wheel hub
Chassis / brakes
FrameTubular steel space frame, load-bearing engine
Front wheel location / suspensionUpside-down telescopic fork, Ø 43 mm
Rear wheel location / suspensionCast aluminium dual swing arm, WAD strut (travel related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable, rebound damping adjustable
Suspension travel front / rear230 mm / 215 mm
Wheelbase1,578 mm
Castor117 mm
Steering head angle64°
WheelsWire spoke wheels
Rim, front2.15 x 21"
Rim, rear4.25 x 17"
Tyres, front90/90 - 21 54V
Tyres, rear150/70 - 17 69V
Brake, frontDual disc, floating brake discs, diameter 300 mm, double-piston floating calipers, ABS
Brake, rearSingle disc, diameter 265 mm, single-piston floating caliper, ABS
Dimensions / weights
Length2.305 mm
Width (incl. mirrors)925 mm
Height (excl. mirrors)1.450 mm
Seat height, unladen weight890 mm (860 mm low seat)
Inner leg curve, unladen weight1.960 mm (1.920 mm low seat)
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled 1)229 kg
Dry weight
Permitted total weight454 kg
Payload (with standard equipment)225 kg
Usable tank volume24l
Reserveca. 4,0 l
  • Technical data relate to the unladen weight (DIN)
  • 1) According to Directive 93/93/EEC with all fluids, fuelled to at least 90% of usable fuel tank

Monday, 8 September 2014

The First Annual Fundy Adventure Rally

Ok, the guy ahead of me is a bit of showoff. Here I am trying to keep one of BMW's F800GS's upright on a steep, rock strewn downhill, desperately using all my appendages, and this guy on a much bigger 1200GS is doing it one handed with his feet off the pegs. Man, I need to get out more on the trails.

The first annual Fundy Adventure Rally was held last weekend. Sixty riders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and even Maryland in the ol' USA participated in the two day event held at Adair's Wilderness Lodge outside of Sussex, New Brunswick. Canada Moto Rallies, a division of CMG (Canada Moto Guide) was behind the rally. Actually the whole damn thing was cooked up by the mad Englishman editor/ceo/head cheese, or is that big cheese? Beer drinking, vegetarian, all around good guy, Rob Harris. Wonder if he's related to Richard Harris?

Rob and his side kick, Brad Crossman (the guy who traded a Goldwing for KTM 450),  and my bunk mate for the rally, spend endless hours pouring over maps and then doing the thankless task of riding all the routes and more. Tough job, but someone has to do it. I can't imagine the amount of work Rob, Brad, and the other organizers, Courtney and Alan did to pull of such a well run event.

The major sponsors for the rally were BMW, who showed up with a tractor trailer load of bikes to demo, and let yours truly use a F800GS for the ride.

I really don't think the rally could have been run as safely without the help from sponsor SPOT. It's a GPS based tracking device, that also doubles as an emergency location transmitter if in distress. SPOT donated a bunch of these devices for the team riders doing the advanced sections. RAM Mounts kindly donated a bunch of mounts for the SPOT devices.

The rally was held at Adair's Wilderness Lodge just outside of Sussex, New Brunswick. It's a beautiful little place that caters to ATVers, snowmobilers, hunters, etc, and for this weekend a bunch of adventure thirsty motorcycle riders.

So how do I fit into this? Well, if you had been reading my blog, you'd know that Rob invited me along to video the event, and edit something together for CMG. In return, he'd get me a F800GS to ride, a cabin to stay in, a bunkmate that snores to keep me up at night (sorry Brad, I lied when you asked if your snoring kept me up) and my meals for the weekend. Damn good deal, if you ask me. Oh ya, I had to do a small presentation on our trip to Labrador last year.

On Friday I loaded up Vstrom and made the big 86km trek to Adair's, of which the last 20km was on gravel road, of which I had not been on since last year. No problems.

The first day of rally consisted of registration for all the riders, BMW demo rides, my insightful presentation on riding Labrador, a dinner, followed by the riders meeting. It was a fairly subdued evening, a lot of nervous energy, and most people turned in early to get ready for tomorrow's long day.

Rally day came quite early when the alarm went off at 0500. Brad had stopped snoring around 1am so I got a solid 4hrs of sleep, more than enough for a 12hr, 500km ride. I actually went to sleep listening to a podcast. Brad really doesn't snore that loud, not like some people I know. He's a really good guy, and was kind enough to offer me ear plugs before we turned out the lights. Ok, enough of Brad's snoring.

Adair's had put on a nice breakfast buffet, so everyone had a full belly before the fun began. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for me it turned out to be the only one I would have until supper. Unless you count a Kit Kat bar and a Joe Louis as a meal. Healthy options. 

At 0700 the first teams left in a staggered start for the day, followed by the solo riders. The route consisted of two options, A route and B route. If you wanted to compete to when a chance for the winners cup,  the B routes were mandatory and only open to teams equipped with the SPOT devices. Solo riders were restricted to the A routes since they were riding without SPOT.  For safety there was a sweep truck and riders on the A route. The more technical sections of the B route prevented a sweep, hence the SPOT devices.

To win, teams had to focus more on navigation than speed. Basically steady pace with no navigation errors, complete all the legs, and you're golden. Easier said than done.

I rode most of the A routes, with tagged along with some teams through two B routes. Being official videographer of the event, I had permission from the All Mighty Rally Master to do that.

The first leg was a loop that started and ended at Adair's, it was to see if the SPOT devices were working properly. It proceeded south on gravel roads, and entered Fundy National Park, where we had the opportunity to ride the parkway all by ourselves, before the park opened. It was a foggy start to the day, which made it hard to see through mist covered goggles. Maybe that's why one team, that will remain nameless, rode the first leg in the wrong direction. Opps.

 Fog gave way to sun later on as we made our way to Elgin on Stage 2, and then it started to heat up to 25C, and remained sunny for the remaining stages until once again it got a little foggy approaching Adair's on the final leg.

The first leg also claimed most of our fallen riders. One rider suffer an injured hand and dropped out, another fellow went over the bars and ended up with sore ribs ending his day, and I got to pull a KLR rider out of the ditch 2km back from Adair's. His bike was a little beat up. No injuries. We bent his gear shift lever back into position, he collected himself and bravely continued and finished the rally. Atta boy. Later on in the day another rider went down at 80kph, and injured her ankle. Thankfully it wasn't more serious at that speed.

So how was the Bigland Adventurer doing on the 800GS. It was my first time back on gravel in awhile, but the GS with knobbies was like riding a dirt bike compared to the Strom, so I was feeling good. Too good when I tried to keep pace with a couple of guys on Husabergs. Mistake one. I came into a corner with a little too much speed, and almost went into the williwacks. I had visions of me explaining to BMW why their bike is upside down in the ditch. So.....you think I would have learned my lesson the first time.....oh no, the Marc Coma wannabe does the same thing AGAIN, following the same two riders later on. Duh. What did Rob say about this not being a race. I guess I just felt so good hauling ass across dirt roads, standing on the pegs, leaned forward at 100kph, feeling like it was the Dakar Rally and not the Fundy ADV Rally. Dare to dream right.

The rally took us all over southeast NB, and I got to discover a lot of really cool places to ride, Rob and Brad did an great job of mapping out a course. I think for the majority of riders it was a good mix of terrain and skill level, the long day making it a challenge. Most riders looked pretty tired at the end.

The B section I did ride wasn't overly hard, the "showoff" I mention at the beginning was in fact not showing off, his mirror had come loose on the rocky decent and wedged itself inside the windscreen of the big GS and locked the handlebars up. He was in a frantic situation trying to move the offending mirror back into place in an attempt to keep his steering while trying to negotiate a a rock strewn hill with me coming up behind him. He said afterwards he thought he was gonna go down, and get run over by me. I like to think I would have avoided him. Rodney Trail was the rider, and he won best 1200GS rider of the event. No surprise there, after what I saw.

About 11hrs after most riders set out, the first teams started to return, and out of 15 teams, 6 managed to finish all the routes in the allotted time. The solo riders came in shortly afterwards, some completing all legs, some taking the bailout routes to make it back in time. The one thing they all had in common..........big smiles on their dust covered, exhausted looking faces.

I think it would be safe to say that the first annual Fundy Adventure Rally was a huge success. Rob was hoping for 25 riders this year, and he got 60, I think he'd better plan for a whole lot more next year. If anyone was sitting on the fence about going this year, well next years will probably be even better so don't miss out on a great day of riding and whole lot of fun with some great people.

Rob, thanks for inviting me along, and for BMW providing me a wonderful 800GS to ride. It was a great bike for this type of rally. Enjoyed the hell out of it. Sorry for the bent front rim. Yikes.

To all the new people I met along the way, it was a real pleasure to ride with you and have a beer with at the end, and for some, nice to finally put a face to the username

See ya all next year.

Terry aka Novaboy.

Friday, 5 September 2014

What it's Like to Run 67km

Pain.....a lot of pain and discomfort. At least the last 20km was. 

Race day for me started at 0430 in the morning. Surprisingly I was able to get a pretty good sleep, must have been the beer and the Quesadillas from Jungle Jim's. Not the best place for a pre-race meal, but hey, sometimes you need to live life on the dangerous side. I figured I'd either be puking at 3am or puking at kilometer 43. (yes folks that is foreshadowing) However Jim and his Jungle had nothing to do with it this time.

The Holiday Inn, which was the host hotel for the race, put an extra early breakfast just for the racers, so at 0500 Pete, myself and a few other runners were chowing down on bagels, bananas, and yogurt. The mood was nervous energy, but relaxed and sleepy at the same time. We talked about our training and previous races. This was when Pete realized that we were undertrained. A fact I knew all along, and Pete was either oblivious to it or happily ignored it. 

I haven't been at the start line of race in the pre-dawn hours since 2000 and my Ironman triathlon race. This time it was cold, wet, and windy. The temp was 10C with only a forecast high of 20C with rain showers and strong westerly winds forecasted. I was hoping for a nice sunny day, but in the end the weather was perfect for running.

Of the original 60 plus registered runners, only 33 of us actually showed up. I'm guessing the others were too scared, or they came to their senses and decided that running 67k on cold, wet, Sunday morning of the Labour Day weekend was.....nuts. It was better to be hungover at the cabin, or in your trailer in a gravel pit alongside the TCH. (Newfoundlanders will find the humour in this)

Braaaaappppp, the starting horn went off at 0630, and the mayor of Deer Lake sent us on our way. The first few kilometers was on the roads, and the pace was a little fast, pretty typical of a race. Pete and I slipped to the back of the back to maintain our 7min/km planned pace. I say planned, because it all fell apart at the end. But it's always good to have a plan...right.

So as they say in Le Tour de France we were the guys with the lantern rouge. The last guy in the peleton. I knew at the pace being run, we would eventually pass a couple of people later on. 

Later on was at about the 10k mark, when we passed the only poor soul to not finish the race. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name, but he bravely started this race with the flu, something I don't think I would have done. I'm not sure how far he made it, but hats off to this guy for attempting the race. 

The first aid station came at the 12k mark, and I was surprised at how little I was drinking. All of our big training runs had been in the heat and I was going thru a full water bottle in 12k. Not today. These aid stations are not like the ones in a marathon, first of all, this one was prehistoric, and everyone was dressed like the Flintstones. Hallucinations already.... There was a contest for best aid station, and these folks went all out. They won too. These aid stations look like a buffet, all kinds of fruit, gels, potatoes, fig newtons, cookies, water, Gu, Coke, etc.

We got our feet wet here at the first river crossing, and continued on the wet muddy ATV trail. Pete started to slowly pull ahead of me as he continued to jog the uphills and I followed my plan of walking them. The rain had let up, and we had enough of a sheltered course that the strong headwind didn't affect us too much. 

For the next 15k I had Pete in my sights just down the road, I'd gain on him during the downhills, and he'd pull away a bit on the uphills. Aid station 2 arrived at the 27k mark, just after the last water crossing. I decided to change into dry socks and shoes here (we had drop bags here) and Pete elected to continue on in his. This was the last time I woud see him until the finish line.

My overall pace was starting to drop to 7:22/km, which was no surprise as the stop to change shoes took some time. I was still feeling good, and continued on solo for the next aid station at kilometer 35, which is the point in the race where we start heading back to Deer Lake. 

All this time we were running on the isolated northside of Deer Lake, nothing up here except logging roads, ATV trails and the odd cabin. It was quite peaceful and a very enjoyable part of the course. As you near the head of the lake you pop out into a resort area. Humber Valley Resort in fact. Kinda weird, big fancy homes in a gated community, very out of place for Newfoundland. I guess a lot of Europeans bought homes here. Not sure why its gated, it's Newfoundland for Pete's sake, the place where people open up their homes to strangers, not keep them out.

I was back on the pavement now, and I had managed to catch up with another runner, which was nice to see after being alone for over an hour. Aid station 3 arrived at 35km, and boy were these folks a sight for sore eyes. 35km or 20 miles is the mythical WALL in marathon running. It's where the serious hurting begins, and for the marathon runner means it's only another 11km of running to the finish line. For me it was wall number one, and another 32.55km of running, jogging, walking, crying, and suffering left. I topped up my bottles again, thanked all the volunteers, who were all awesome, and pushed on up the shallow incline to the town of Pasadina for aid station 4 at 43km.

Things were starting to unravel at this point, and my lack of training was becoming glaringly real. My legs were beginning to protest each step, and my continous running had become a mix of walking and jogging. My pace was now down 7:30/km. 

Aid station 4 was in the parking lot of the Foodland grocery store in Pasadina. I hadn't eaten too much, other than a couple of bananas, and was relying mostly on Tailwind nutrition mixed in with my water bottle. I mistakenly had a piece of potatoe at this point. It tasted good as I headed out to continue on, but after 2km my stomach was protesting. I stopped to walk a bit, but that never helped. Before long I was on the side of the road with my hands on my knees emptying the contents of my stomach all over the ground in this beautiful little western Newfoundland town, Sorry Pasadina, I apologize. I tried to get as much as possible into the ditch. Hopefully the rain that was beginning to fall again washed most of it away. With my stomach feeling better it was time to push on, only 22km to go. I was still on track for a 8hr and 30min finish time.

The pavement gave way to the infamous T'railway trail. It's the now abandoned railway bed that goes thru the province. Former home of the Newfie Bullet, which is what I felt like at this point. The train was nicknamed the Newfie Bullet, not for it's speed, but for how slow it was. The railway trail made up most of the running on the southside of the lake. It was about 20km of long straight, boring stretches, with big loose stones, and two narrow tracks after years of ATV use. Basically it was 20km of hellish running. Not that I was running at this point. Wogging, and walking. I was all alone and in a very bad place in my mind. Now my calculations in my head went from finishing in 8hrs to trying to stay under 9hrs to trying to make the 10hr cutoff. Focus Burt, just make it to the next aid station remember. 

The last aid station came at 55km. No more potatoes this time, however the watermelon was sure nice, and my water bottle was topped off by the mayor of Deer Lake, how nice is that. Did I say the volunteers were awesome.

12km to go. Oh, one more thing.....the energy at the aid stations, and encouragement they give the runners, even old, slow guys who might be in last place is incredible, and you leave the aid stations with renewed energy and a spring in your step. For me the spring in my step usually pops shortly afterwards, but it is a huge mental boost.

The railway bed continues on, and I am hurting, hurting like I haven't since the marathon of the Ironman, except now I am all alone walking on this shitty stone, I can feel blisters forming on my toes, and my legs are shot. I contemplate dropping out, but it's too damn close to the finish line now, I've put in 8hrs of movement. Oh wait, now the battery in my GPS watch has died, I'm 7km from the finish with only a vague idea of my pace. Time to pull out my Timex. 

I cross the 5km to go mark. More mental calculations......they are taking a lot longer to do now. Fatigue is a wonderful thing. If I run most of the last 5k I can beat 9hrs. By running, I mean a slow jog, but after walking most of this damn railbed the 7 or 8min/km pace I am flying at now seems like running. 

I have now re-entered the Town of Deer Lake, at which point I know I'm gonna make it. The pain in my legs, and feet is bearable, and I push hard for the finish line, constantly trying to figure out if I can break the 9hr mark. Hey, look there's Jungle Jim's, man a cold pint of Rickards Red and Quesadilla would be good now. Whoa, focus Terry, it's a race remember, and you're almost done. 

I continue wogging through town with the odd car honking their horn in support, and the rest giving an odd look, "why is this guy jogging with such a pained look on his face"

I pass the 1km to go mark, which seems a lot farther than 1km for some reason. Damn this hurts. I round the last corner, and hear and see the finishline. As long as I don't get tripped by a rogue squirrel, which I probably wouldn't recover from at this point, I am golden. 

For some reason in a race this long, when the finishline comes into view the pain seems to disappear, I feel like I am now sprinting at an unbelievable 6:30 or 7:00min/km. Blistering, like my toes.

I'd like to say that crossing the finishline was euphoric, or life altering, or at least something poetic, but it was just plain relief. The pain could now stop, I could finally sit down. Damn I did it, 8 friggin' hours and 56 painful, miserable minutes. I was so friggin' happy to break 9hrs. I dug deep for that.

Pete was nowhere to be seen, I found out later he had a good day and came in 15mins ahead of me. Don't blame him for not hanging around the finishline. A warm shower trumps that anytime.

The race organizer and his wife, Lorne and Angela Reid, were there to greet me, along with all the awesome volunteers. The best part of the finishline were these awesome ice cream bars, ice cream never tasted so good. I mean it was awesome. I actually think the ice cream was better than crossing the finishline. 

After getting cleaned up and tracking down Pete, we went in search of beer and a quick snack, funny how running for 9hrs will make you hungry, maybe its the 6000 calorie defecit I was under. So a mozza burger combo from A&W and a six pack of beer later we were right as rain. 

The awards banquet was later in the evening, two free beer is all I got to say about that. Thanks Molson 67 for that sponsorship. 67 calories for 67km. Go figure. It was like the beer was named just for the race. Pizza, wings, it was a gorgefest, and boy it was good. 

Pete unfortunately ran a little too fast that day, he felt a little faint in the chow line, and bailed for his room. Poor guy almost fainted twice on the way up, and ended up with the cold sweats all night. I didn't think he looked that bad so I wasn't too worried and went back to my grub and beer.  I did get a "I'm not dying" text from him later on.

It's too bad because Lorne put on a good awards show, and presented every runner with a pewter finishers belt buckle. It was a very nice way to the end the day.

The run was very well organized, almost military like precision, thanks to Lorne and Angela's career in the Canadian Forces. The volunteers and local support is outstanding, you won't meet a better, or friendlier bunch of people anywhere. 

If you ever contemplated running an ultra in the east, and want to make it into a vacation visit Newfowndland and run the Deer Lake 67.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Running 67 kilometers..... The Deer Lake 67 Ultramarathon

It's the morning before the big ultramarathon for Pete and I. We both arrived in Deer Lake, Newfoundland yesterday. I drove in from St. John's via a camping night in Terra Nova, after spending a week with my family on holiday and Pete flew in, funny enough from St. John's after doing some business in the city.

Sixty seven kilometers, 67.55km. It's only 25.35km more than a marathon. The normal person would go, "what the fuck are ya thinking?" My brain and apparently the brains of the other 38 runners says "its only like a marathon and another half marathon to run" I saw quoted once "Any idiot can run a marathon, it takes a special idiot to run an ultramarathon" Well this idiot has run a couple of marathons and an Ironman triathlon, so I guess I'm special, in the, lets take the short bus to school kind of way.

The first thing I did when I arrived in Deer Lake was to drive down to the lake and have a look. It's been awhile since I actually stopped and walked down to the edge of the lake. We rode by it on our Labrador adventure this time last year. At the time I never thought we'd be back. Well....unfortunately the lake hasn't gotten any smaller. It's huge, and I realized then the challenge facing us tomorrow.

It was brick shitting time, all the doubts I'd been having on whether or not I had trained well enough for this came flooding back all at once. Yes, I wish I had trained more, done a couple of more long back to back runs, and did some strength training. I am fairly confident that I'll finish, just not as quickly as I would have liked to. There's a lot of Newfoundlanders in the race, duh....no shit, and growing up on the island, I know there are a lot of good runners here, and I suspect the finish times will be most impressive, like they were last year.

For those of you who do not run, and wonder how does anyone run 67km, or even a 100 miles, like they do in races like the Leadville 100 and Vermont 100. Except for the elite, genetically gifted athletes, most people don't run the whole thing. Almost all ultras take place off road, on trails. So it's really a combination of jogging, hiking, and walking, or wogging as I like to call it. You walk the uphills and jog the downhills and the flats. 

In 25hrs and 4mins from right now, Pete, myself and 36 others will be crossing the start line on, for some runners, what will be a 10hr adventure filled with emotional and physical highs and lows through a beautiful off road running course. Bring on the pain. Woohoo.

Hopefully I'll be recovered enough from this run to be able to walk next Friday, or at least ride a bike, since I'm going to CMG's Fundy Adventure Rally to film that. BMW has kindly given me an 800GS to ride for the 500km event so it would be nice to not have to have my legs screaming in soreness for the day long event, so I can enjoy the ride.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

What Happens When Yamaha Builds a Better Harley????

I received an email from the assistant editor of Canada Moto Guide the other day. Basically Zak said......"A Harley Davidson???? Really? In a joking tone of course because even though Zak is a DR650, small bike lovin' enthusiast, he does appreciate all facets of motorcycles. He did say he enjoyed his cross country trip on a Harley Switchback, all for the CMG readers of course. He even camped in a Walmart parking lot without the camper. He may well just be the first person to tent in a Walmart, that wasn't homeless.

Anyway, before this tangent gets too out of control, Zak said the best Harley 883 Iron built was in fact a Yamaha. Holy shit!!!! The blasphemy, how can a Japanese clone be a better Harley? The HD purists are up in arms, dew rags are being thrown to the ground in disgust. It's not possible.

Well I cannot say yay or nay on this, because I haven't ridden the new and improved 883 Iron by Yamaha. Zak had it as a long term test bike, and could be considered an expert in the field of Yamaha, Harley bobber clones. I only have my short 20min demo ride on the 883 to go by, and I did sit on a this so called clone at Atlantic Motoplex. It was a comfortable bike from what I remember for the 3 mins my arse was on the ultra suede seat. 

This better than Harley clone is of course the new Yamaha Bolt. Introduced this year to the motoring public, and according to Yamaha has now become the best selling metric cruiser. I assume "metric" means non-Harley, since everyone in the world is metric except for the good ol', behind the times, USA. Metric is so easy. Get with it America, and for the love of god go to Celcius, the whole Farenheit thing is confusing as hell. Water freezes at 0, boils at 100. Simple. At least Al Roker isn't giving the weather in degrees Calvin.

Shit, off topic again. Yamaha Bolt, right. So what's better about it. Well according to most reviewers on the bike, the motor, brakes and suspension are better, and some say the bike feels bigger, yet is 50lbs (must be an American reviewer) lighter. The Harley folk complain the seam on the tank is hideous, and its a clone. Not much to complain about.  Oh and the frame doesn't hug the engine as nice as the 883 does. Ugly gaps. Afterall there must be some flaws. Lord knows the Harley's have theirs. Now I'm not bashing Harley, they have been making some nice bikes for a lotta of years. The Sporty's in particular. But really until now there has been no direct competition, and competition is good. I mean would HD have improved the brakes and added an optional ABS on the Sporty's if it wasn't for the Bolt? Who knows. But its a bonus for us the consumer, whether you buy an Yamaha or an HD.

Question is....can I still be an Eddie Vedder, old '90's grunge rocker with a Bolt? According to the Yamaha Bolt video, I can at least be an aging hipster. Break out the flannel shirts honey.

I like motorcycles, all of them, ask my wife who gives me shit for wanting a new bike every year. I guess I just haven't found the right one yet. "It's my last one, I promise" has been said repeatedly in this house. Except when I say that I have my fingers crossed behind my back. Most marriages involve a few white lies or exaggerated truths.

So instead of rushing right out and buying an 883 Iron after a 20min demo ride I decided to take Zak's comment and run with it. Plus my darling wife gave me the look, you know the "its gonna cost you later" look if I trade in my bike now. So I am gonna research the Bolt a little more and see if I can get a demo on one. Plus, my friend Tim Hovey just happened to buy Maclean's Powersport, the local Yamaha and Suzuki dealer. He is in the process of having the name changed and overhauling the place. I think he'll do really well with the dealership and bring it to a whole new level. I'd like to help him out in anyway possible, which means purchasing all my new bikes from him. So we will see where this leads.

Once again this year I'll be attending the AIMExpo in Orlando. A very big bike show. They sent me an email asking me to confirm whether or not I'll be attending again this year. Just so happens my flight training is the week after, so I'll be going down early to partake again. I plan on demoing a Bolt this time. Cruising the flat boring roads under a burning Florida sun. Woohoo.

Next update will be during the Deer Lake 67 ultra marathon, followed by the Fundy Adventure Ride shortly afterwards. If I can still walk, or at least stand on the pegs.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Crossing

 I saw this posted on CMG's website this morning. Who needs a big GS adventure bike to have fun and explore. Go with one of the original adv bikes......A Royal Enfield. Great video, all shot on GoPro. Nice work fellas

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Hardly Ableson

Ok, the majority of people that read this blog are most likely adventure riders, actually the majority of riders that read this blog are Pete and I.

Lately..... since I was 19 years old, I have wanted a.....wait for it......a Harley Davidson. "WTF" you say. "The TLH, Vstrom riding adventure guy wants a Harley, how can that be?" Truth be told, I have had a love, hate relationship with the iconic American brand for 26 years. Love to have one, but thought they rode like shit, broke down a lot, and I really did not want to dress like a pirate to have to fit in. The other issue was, the only bikes in the Harley line-up that I liked were the Sportsters.

A little bit of Harley rider logic, or at least from what I have gathered from my years of research. Some, not all Harley riders ( mostly the doctors or lawyers by day, and SOA prospects on the weekend, the ones that can't ride in the rain, or get my bike dirty types) consider all other bikes inferior to HD. This is the same group that then slam any HD riders on Vrods (liquid cooled engine i.e. modern engine) because they are not "real" Harleys. Sportsters......well those are chick bikes, even though more women ride Dynas. They also call them half-a-Harley, or piglets. If your lazy boy on wheels called an Ultra Classic Limited is a HOG, then the Sporty is a piglet. If there isn't 1800cc's in the frame, it's too small. For the love of Christ when did an almost 900cc motorcycle become small. That was huge in my day.

Corporate badass's

yes, girls do ride Sporty's

I have never seen such a passionate and hateful group of riders anywhere. Now the dressing up like a bad ass pirate, Hells Angel wannabe. I get it, you have to look the part to be accepted into the group. No different than the ADV guys, in our head to toe matching riding suits, looking like a stromtrooper (notice that little slip), I mean stormtrooper, or Power Ranger. The sport bike riders looking like they just got off the MotoGP track, in head to toe leathers, with knee pucks that haven't had a scratch.

Please shoot me if I ever show up anywhere dressed like this, that includes Halloween parties.

The current trend is the hipster look, lots of flannel, Doc Martins or Vans, Bell retro helmets, groovy glasses (do bifocals count) because I'm all over that. Can a 45 year old be a hipster? Am I too young to be an old hippy. Wait, I got it.......I'm an old grunge rocker from the '90's. YES, THAT's IT. I have found my look. Dave Grohl, Eddie Vetter, and Terry Burt.

Eddie likes dogs and Airstream trailers.....he is a god

Anyway, I've gotten a bit off topic. Where is this going? Well....this week I went in search of Sportster 883 Iron. One of the 3 bikes in Harley's line-up that I really love. The others being a Sportster 48 and 72. Unlike the adventure bikes I lusted for in the past that were priced at the top of the scale $25K GS Adventure. The Sporty's are Harley's most affordable bikes. $10K for an 883 Iron, which pales in comparison to some that are close to $50K. This maybe the first time that I wanted something cheap. Whoa.

So I headed up the local HD dealer to just have a look and see what was on the showroom. They had one of each, an 883 Iron, a 48 and a 72. The 883 has a, you guessed it, 883cc V-twin, air cooled fuel-injected motor. the 48 and 72 are 1200cc. It's practically the same engine, and for a few hundred bucks the 883 can be brought up to 1250cc.

The demo bike

Low and behold they have an 883 demo available, damn thing only has 22km on it, and it's a beautiful flat black colour. Harley calls it "black denim". For a tough biker image, it's a lame colour name. Geez, why didn't they just call it "gay biker bar black" instead. After signing a waiver that basically says, "you break it, you buy it" I was on my way. This is only my second Harley riding experience. I took my friend's (Scotty Goggles) Street Glide for a ride once. Hated it. It was too big, too stretched out, hated having my feet up in front of me, and it didn't want to corner. Every time I'd lean it into a corner, it wanted to stand back up again. It wasn't for me.

I knew right away the Sporty was for me. The unmistakable Harley sound coming from the dual pipes. Not obnoxious and loud (I hate loud pipes, and I don't think they save lives,  they just piss off neighbours) The mid pegs were familiar, and the bike was nice and nimble, effortless to ride. It is top heavy though. Power....well there is no lack of it, nice low and midrange, plenty for my 170lb frame, and for the riding I like to do. The suspension....well it wasn't as bad as I was expecting, there is some, I hit one big bump that was spine jarring, but for the most part it wasn't too bad.

Brakes... I was expecting crap brakes, because that is all I have heard. However in 2014 Harley upgraded the brakes, and they now have a good bite, they certainly were no worst than the ones on the Vstrom.

Handling...well it doesn't corner like a Vstrom, I scrapped the peg feelers a couple of times. The bike has a heavy, yet nimble feel to it, if that makes any sense. As long as you don't get too aggressive in the corners, or carry too much speed it's fine.

Ergos...I found the bike very comfortable for the 20mins I was riding it, I have short legs for being 6ft tall, my pant legs are 32". Plus I am not very heavy. I think for any long trips a set of highway pegs to change position and stretch out a bit maybe in order and a windshield for the highway.

Controls, very nice, except for the self cancelling turn signals, not too sure about them yet. Clutch and brake levers were nice and big, and felt good, handlebar position was nice. The new speedo, is easy to read, and now comes with selectable digital tach and gear position indicator, as well as km to go til empty.

Overall, loved it. This is gonna sound real corny, but I felt like a real badass on that bike. Like an extra on SOA. The sound of the V-twin, the vibrations, it's a raw basic bike, that looks killer. Maybe at 45 I'm now truly going through my mid-life crisis.

Plus the chicks really dig the Harley's. Which is important. When was the last time you saw two chicks straddling a Vstrom like this.