Friday, 18 December 2015

BMW Summer 3 Pants Review

BMW Summer 3 Pants
I felt delighted with the styling and comfort of my new BMW Summer Pants, and just to be sure, I tested the conversion from pants to shorts and back again before I left the dealer showroom. The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, so the following day I decided to take my new jeans on a 500km run from Safety Bay (Western Australia) to Porongurup. My Ulysses Motorcycle Club bear came along for the ride, too, as he had been nagging me for some time about a badge for his riding jacket; like everyone else, Bear’s got to earn his stripes too.

Bear at Donnybrook
The air temperature was 24°C and the jeans felt comfortable and were breathing well all the way to our first pit stop at Donnybrook. The cargo pockets are great, although I would prefer a velcro fastening instead of press studs. It was nice to see that I stopped worrying about my keys as they were safely stowed away in a zipped hip pocket. The velcro ankle strap is worth its weight in gold and easily kept the jeans off the ground and stopped them from riding up.

It warmed up for the next leg to Manjimup, my temperature gauge nudging 32°C. Not far out of Bridgetown, a crow decided to test the hip protection and slapped me on the right. Sadly the bird lay stone dead in the road but the armour did its job and I don’t even have a slight bruise to help tell the story; I was starting to think “I was meant to buy these jeans.”

I felt warm in my jeans while I sipped tea in Manjimup, but I was smiling in the sure knowledge that if I’d been going for a walk around the township, I’d just convert my Summer Pants to shorts and be pretty dam comfortable.

Some nice back roads
While the farming folk were home enjoying lunch in the cool of their farmhouse kitchens, we rode on to Porongurup. Although the sun was lighting the way, it was hot on our backs and I started to understand why there were venting holes in the knee armour. We stopped at Rocky Gully to hydrate once more and I was hot in those jeans, but I would have felt hot in any jeans.

In summary, I’m loving my new Summer Pants, I haven’t washed them yet but with a two year warranty they’ve got the tick from me.

Bear showing off his Albany Commemorative pin
PS It seems that commemorative pins are out of fashion in small towns like Porongurup, so Bear had to ride on to Albany before he could find a pin for his riding jacket.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Steve’s New Lid - Kabuto (OGK) Aeroblade 3 Review

After several years and many kilometres Steve’s favourite touring helmet, an OGK Aeroblade II was looking worse for wear. So after a full day of checking out the local shops and trying on heaps of helmets a decision was finally made. A new Kabuto (previously OGK) Aeroblade 3 Maverick White/Red was purchased.

This is what Steve had to say:

The Aeroblade 3 is a great improvement from my previous Aeroblade II. I was always happy with my previous lid, but after four trips across the Nullarbor, and 80,000 kilometres, it was well past the time to change.

I took the new helmet for its first ride today, we did a favourite loop of 200 kms. Heading east from our house soon puts you on some quiet back roads where you can make your way to the Darling Range for some twisties. A coffee stop at the Blue Wren Cafe, Dwellingup, a great bikers joint. Then back down the range to Waroona, along the flats to the Harvey Estuary and lunch stop at the Bouvard Tavern. Then back home along the coast. A tough way to spend your day!

So what about the helmet:
  • Just as good a fit and comfort as the old OGK (obviously depends on the shape of your head).
  • The helmet is very light (very noticeable when turning head). It seemed to be one of the lightest available.
  • Seems like very good aerodynamics, very little buffeting riding the Red Dwarf (R1200GS, so an upright seating position).
  • Great ventilation, never before had a helmet where I could feel the air over the top of my head.
  • Very quiet (more so when vents shut).

I think the new Aerobalde 3 is a vast improvement on an already good helmet. It’s lighter, quieter, better ventilated and with improved aerodynamics. I’m very happy with the purchase, so if you’re in the market for a new lid, check out the Kabuto Aeroblade 3.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Coral Coast Ride - Pilbara, Western Australia

Red Devil (BMW F650GS) and Red Dwarf (BMW R1200GS) pulled out of our driveway early on a Sunday morning in late August, both bikes dressed to the nines with camping gear, and Steve and I smiling from ear to ear in anticipation of a three week ride to North West Cape, the north-western tip of Australia. Sunday's aren't as quiet on the road as they used to be and we had fun snaking our way through the early morning traffic. The chilly 9°C had me switching my heated grips to full bore and within the hour we had made our way to the northern end of the freeway and were drinking tea and enjoying a bacon and egg roll at a roadside restaurant. Fulfilled and refreshed, we rode northwards amongst the wheat fields while bees made a mess of our visors and we developed a healthy respect for those who ride with no visor at all.

Green Head
We camped for a couple of nights at Green Head to walk amongst the wildflowers in Stockyard Gully and Lesueur National Parks. Then it was onwards and upwards, taking the Indian Ocean Drive and the Chapman Valley Road, to the historic town of Northampton. In Northampton we met Tim Spiteri and his partner Jo Noesgaard. Tim is a modern day adventurer, currently riding a bicycle around the country. Last year Tim was part of a team rowing across the Indian Ocean; thanks for the inspiration, Tim, we need folks like you to remind us what is truly possible.

Overlander Roadhouse
On the road from Northampton to Carnarvon, the bees were replaced with butterflies, and they made a mess of our visors too, but it didn't matter as we were enjoying our ride along the North West Coastal Highway. At times we had to slow down for the great wedge-tailed eagles that were pecking at the latest road kill. There are hundreds of travellers on the road these days and we had to queue for fuel at Overlander Roadhouse; $1.80/lt for unleaded petrol made me smile in the sure knowledge that we had arrived in the outback. We stopped for a while, just hanging out with the bikes, and watched the road trains thundering by.

Apparently the fruit and vegetable farms around Carnarvon provide 70% of Western Australia's total requirement but more importantly, as a traveller, Carnarvon is home to one of the best fish and chip shops in the state. We built our own seafood basket for two at Westcoast Fish 'n' Chips with one serve of snapper, eight prawns and eight scallops; all fresh and truly to die for.

Six-pack habit
We don't have refrigeration when we go camping with Devil and Dwarf so at around 4pm each day we would wonder over to the nearest grog shop and return with a cold six-pack to keep us amused and smiling until dinner time. This ritual became known as our six-pack habit and we enjoyed beers from the big brewers to boutique establishments, depending on what was on special.

Six-Pack Habit
 I've gotta six-pack habit when I'm on the road,
Where I headin' know body knows.
When the sun goes down I'll be sittin' around,
With my six-pack habit in some outback town.

North West Cape lighthouse
At Minilya Roadhouse the road forks left for those travelling to Exmouth and this quiet run through the desert is interesting and fun with a few curves to keep bike riders amused. On the approach into town we were warned to lookout for sheep hanging around on the road verges and sure enough we spotted our first woolly inhabitant 50km out of town. This unexpected desert dwelling herd kept us on our toes for the last half hour of the ride.

We spent five nights in Exmouth enjoying Ningaloo and Cape Range National Park. We took Devil and Dwarf for a run to Yardie Creek and a swim at Turquoise Bay. Only Dwarf went on the 4WD only ride through the gorge at Shot Hole Canyon. Riding pillion, I could enjoy the towering gorge walls without the anxiety of dropping Devil in one of the stony creek beds.

Jane and Hini
In Exmouth we met Hini Krutzfeldt. Hini shipped his BMW F800GS from Germany to Perth in July 2015 and will be riding around the country until November. Hini is an adventurer rider and street racer and we had great conversations at dinner time. I will always remember Hini whenever I reverse down a steep slope using the clutch (with the engine switched off) instead of struggling with the rear brake when the front brake won't grip.

The Red Dwarf, Shothole Canyon, Cape Range National Park
On our way south I fell in love with the snorkelling and the laid back lifestyle at Coral Bay. We didn't take a snorkelling tour; we just launched ourselves off the beach and let the current take us for a drift over the coral reef. We had anchored our Sparkman and Stephens 34 foot yacht, Roma II, at Pt Maud, one nautical mile north of Coral Bay, on 16th September 1993. We enjoyed a walk along the beach to the place where we had been before. According to our ships log we had waited six days for the wind to drop below 25knots.

With the sun behind us we had an easy ride back to Carnarvon, to restock the pantry pannier, and then took ourselves for a bikers look at Shark Bay.

We had our first bad travellers experience at Hamelin Pool Caravan Park (after over 100,000 kms of motorcycle travels). On returning from a short walk to the old shell quarry, there was a note tucked onto my bike asking us to "come and pay for our showers as showers are for paying customers only." We had not been near the toilets or the showers so Steve took the note back to the tea rooms and informed the girls that we hadn't had a shower. They accusingly replied, "Someone told us you had." They never apologised for insulting a couple of bikers, they just kept saying, "Someone told us you had used the showers." There was evidence that they had tried to take our riding jackets as ransom, fortunately they were locked onto Steve's bike. I hate to think about the outcome had they taken our jackets. Well, Hamelin Pool Caravan Park, we'll be spreading the word on your incompetent hospitality skills, and advising everyone we meet not to give you the time of day.

Compulsory photo of Dolphin at Monkey Mia 
Monkey Mia is a must see for Western Australians and we were lucky, on the morning of our visit, seven dolphins came to play at the sanctuary. These days the dolphins are only fed a snack sized fish and it is wonderful to see that the dolphins visit Monkey Mia to enjoy the people interaction and nothing more.

The weather turned against us when we were ready to ride for home so we holed up in Kalbarri to let the wind and the rain pass through. Then we were on the road for our last days ride, looking forward to the comforts of home and at the same time savouring the last moments of a thoroughly enjoyable three weeks camping with Devil and Dwarf; something deep within the soul told us "this is how we should be living."

Campsite on the beach at Denham, Shark Bay

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Motorcycle Riding in the South West

Freemason's Hotel - Bridgetown
One look at the radar to confirm the severity of the thunder storms tramping through the South West and we delayed our departure for twenty four hours. Although we were disappointed, we knew if we were caught out in a severe thunder squall we'd be wishing, harder than we'd ever wished before, we'd found some patience.

We were riding away from the city's streets by 8am. A few spots of rain collected on my visor but I didn't let them dampen my mood, instead I tuned in to the gentle purring sound that Devil (BMW F650GS) makes when I'm listening through a set of disposable ear plugs. In the heat of summer it was a joy to ride under a cloudy sky. A quick burst on the freeway and we were slinking our way along Patterson Road all the way to Pinjarra. A windmill confirmed there was not even a zephyr stirring the air and we knew we had made the transition to country culture when a ute pulled into a servo outside Harvey carrying two large hay bales in the tray.

Just another truck.
Timing is everything, even down to who you follow along the highway, and unbeknownst to us we pulled out a few kilometres behind a dump truck carrying a skip full of rubbish. The stink was in the wind and up our noses for over 20km before we rid ourselves of the offending vehicle. We weren't complaining though, as one of the wonders of motorcycle riding is you are fully immersed in the environment you ride in.

We brunched at the Apple Pie Bakery in Donnybrook and then we were on the road again, enjoying our own thoughts and dreams as we rode along. From Bridgetown we found Winnejup Rd, a country lane, at times only wide enough for a single vehicle, before joining the Boyup Brook - Cranbrook Rd for the run into Frankland. There were a few trucks on this stretch of road but the first truckie must have made a call on the radio because all the others kept well to the left.

Porongurup National Park.
There is a great rest area in Frankland and we took the opportunity to hydrate and educate ourselves about the local area. The map on the tourist board indicated that Bunbury was only 104km away. A spirited discussion erupted around the bikes until a map was produced proving that Bunbury was more like 200km away.

When the Stirling Range appeared as we approached the Albany Highway we knew we were nearing our destination at Porongurup. We had cruised along all day in near perfect conditions with only pot holes full of water to remind us of the storms from raged the day before. Dwarfie (BMW R1200GS) went ahead to open the gate for me and as I eased Devil down the gravel driveway I noticed I was singing a few lines from the old classic "What A Difference A Day Makes."