New tyre and a cold winter’s day

I pulled the back wheel out of the ZX14 yesterday and had a new Michelin Pilot Road 4GT fitted. The GT is an interesting evolution of the Michelin Pilot Road (sport- touring) series in that it is specifically designed for heavy motorcycles and has a combination of bias ply and radial ply in its construction. There’s some more info on the Michelin site HERE
It has a hard center. At 75% circumference hard, I think that a greater percentage of the center is hard compound compared with the PR3 it’s replacing. The edges are medium compound. Mind you, feeling the center section (OK, I’m resorting to American English in this post just to appease my spell checker!) of tread it actually feels VERY soft  to touch – so ‘hard’ is a relative term in this case .

Below is a pic that I took last night before the tire had been used. Note that the sipes don’t go right out to the edge of the tread as they do with the PR 3.

This was my first ride for a few weeks after a burst of wet winter weather and being away on holidays, so I was keen to ride. I took a familiar route inland from Geelong to Forrest to visit the Red Dog (pictured previously in this post), have a hot chocolate and a friendly chat with the owner, Emma. Did I mention that it was pretty damn cold this morning?

From here I took to the twisties to Apollo Bay, confident that the new tire was scrubbed in. From Apollo Bay I ran the inland section of the Great Ocean Road to Lavers Hill, then Gellibrand then down to Colac. This route offers the best combination of fast open sweepers and tight hairpin curves, though care is needed this time of year.

The scenery along this route is pretty special as well! One of my favorites, where the GOR crosses the Aire River.

After a stop at the Gellibrand store for another hot drink, I continued on to Colac and dropped in a Steve’s place on the off chance that he was home. Fortunately he was and we had a great catch up and a look at the progress of his most recent Norton model 18 restoration. Steve’s just had a crack at his first paint job – pretty impressive I think. Well done mate! I wish I had your skills.

I took the highway home and arrived back in Geelong just before dusk, just as it began to get really cold again.

The ZX14 felt great now that it has a pair of PR4′s on it. However, realistically it’s too early pass judgement on the PR4 GT. I’ve been caught before with a new concept tire that felt great at first but after a few thousand kilometers was terrible on my specific bike.


Gloomy but great!

Well its only two days away from the winter solstice Down Under and its great to be able to get out for a mid week ride. I basically wanted to do a test run in my textile gear with the merino wool layers underneath to make sure that I will be warm enough for next Sunday’s Ulysses club ride when a max of 10C is forecast at our destination (meaning that most of the ride will be in much lower temps). Despite being gloomy and overcast, all the roads were basically dry which was an unexpected surprise – especially so for the section through the Otways. Here’s a map of the ride – pretty much my ‘backyard’ but some of the twistiest roads in Victoria anyway.

The temp was around 7C when I left home and became colder as I headed away from the coast towards the Otways. I even stopped a bit later to take a pic of the ambient temp reading. Other than showing 4C ‘Outside’, you will see that the traction control (KTRC) is set on 2 for these conditions, but I still have full power selected (F).

I mentioned that the road was mostly dry, because if you look really carefully in the bottom right of the pic below you can see the contrast with some pavement that was completely dry and that the riding line wasn’t actually 100% dry and just a little dampish.

One aspect of riding in cold conditions that I have become more wise about is stopping reasonably often for a hot drink. My first stop was in Forrest and I pulled up at  The Corner Store, which I’d been meaning to try for ages.

It’s mainly a mountain bike enthusiasts shop that has a small cafe as well. I was the only customer and had a lovely chat with Bec about the local MTB single trails as she made me a mug of excellent hot chocolate (I’m not a coffee drinker and usually Coke zero (AKA “black asprin” pulses through my system ). Mountain biking has become a big thing in the Otways and Forrest hosts a couple of major events each year.

Here’s some of the stock they have

OK, one more picture, as I said I’d give them a good plug!

Actually, one more pic – lessons for the girls! If Cathy’s as passionate as Bec is about MTB riding it must be a great experience! Hey guys, what about something for overweight old dudes who’d love to learn how to ride the trails as well?

While we are on this deviation from motorcycling, I should mention Flyboy’s excellent blog of his MTB riding. Click HERE

OK, back to motorcycling.  From Forrest I headed to Apollo Bay for a bite to eat and another hot chocolate (and I resisted the marshmallows again!). To my delight, the road was virtually deserted, I was quite warm and had an excellent brisk run to Skenes Creek turnoff. Things only got better when I rode the GOR from Apollo Bay to Lorne without seeing another vehicle going in my direction. Unprecedented in my recollection! That along with the dry tarmac made for for one of the better GOR rides in recent years – so much so that I didn’t stop to take any pics. As I cruised through Lorne a cop on an unmarked BMW police motorcycle had a good look at me, and there was also another cop in the 50km zone on the edge of town with a radar gun. If only they’d hassle a few of the drivers who cross to the wrong side of the road around the curves and those slow coaches who fail to yield (pull over) into the overtaking lanes.

I got home in no time having had a great winter ride. Only 210 kms in duration but lots of fun riding and checking out a new coffee stop. Just as a post script I should add that with 3,000 kilometers on the new Michelin Pilot Road 4 front tire I’m still really happy with it – the bike felt really sure footed in today’s cool conditions.




Motorcycling Australia roadside assist

Just a ‘heads up’ to anyone who has had the Roadside Assistance service offered via Motorcycling Australia – Australian Riders’ Division (ARD) . MA (and ARD) are no longer providing a Roadside Assist scheme and now recommend Motorcycling Alliance which is operated by Motorcycling NSW Ltd.

I only found this out when I rang MA to find out why I hadn’t received a reminder for renewal of my roadside assistance subscription.

Unfortunately the ARD website no longer exists and a quick scan of the MA website didn’t provide any info about this either. It would have been far more sensible for that site to remain live, explain the change and then direct people to Motorcycling Alliance! I’ve spoken with a MA staff member and suggested that they need to be more pro-active re publicizing the change.

Hi-Viz to be compulsory for learner riders in Victoria

A chance comment in a conversation with one of the salesmen at my local motorcycle store today led me to follow up on the proposed new Graduated Licensing System laws that will commence in October this year.

Current learner rider restrictions are LAMS approved bike, must display L plates, no mobile phone use, zero blood alcohol, can’t carry a passenger or tow a trailer. Some of the key features that are additional to current requirements will be that learners:

  • wear hi-viz vest or jacket
  • must have the headlight on at all times
  • can’t ride a manual gearshift bike if tested on an auto.

Once licensed, the restricted period will be increased from the current one year to three years. From 2015 tougher licensing requirement will also be introduced.

Full details HERE

Other than the fact that the Hi-Viz and daytime headlights are not evidence based initiatives (much contradictory research exists), it nearly took my breath away when I read that the State Gov’t are spending $2.92 million to implement this scheme FROM THE SO CALLED “Motorcycle Safety Levy“.

An interesting footnote is that when in opposition our current Premier agreed the Levy was unfair and promised to revoke it when in government. Yet another example of a politician breaking a promise – who would have thought!



Monday’s forecast was for fog followed by sunshine, which was very welcome after a wintery weekend. Better still, there is great Autumn (Fall for those of you in North America) weather forecast for the rest of the week. I left home around 10.00am in fog, however, it had lifted by the time I was 10 kms down the road. Just for a change I planned to ride the inland, rainforest section of Great Ocean Road in a clockwise direction, which provided a different perspective on this very familiar countryside – which I really enjoyed.

My first stop was the West Barwon dam.

I then tracked further inland through the Otway Ranges to Apollo Bay for lunch at the bakery. The road conditions were a bit a bit tricky actually, with sunlit entries to curves dry, but the shaded exits wet and greasy ( or vice versa). However, it kept me on my toes and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. From Apollo Bay my next stop was at Gibson’s Steps – near the 12 Apostles.

View from Gibson’s steps. (Grrr – dirty lens on camera!)

I didn’t stop at the Apostles and continued on to near-bye Port Campbell for a drink and some fuel. The bike was showing the ambient temp as 18C. The place was virtually deserted except for some international tourists in their camper vans. To my surprise a couple of people headed for the waves for a swim. (Perhaps they were from the UK and thought it was summer!).

The ZX14 probably didn’t really quite need fuel,especially at $1.75 per litre! However by gassing up here I was able to do a non stop, inland run back to Geelong.  After concentrating hard in the twisty and shaded sections of the ride, it was actually great just cruising along through the farming country with the sun shining on me. By the time I got home at 4.00pm the air was getting chilly and I had done 379 kms of enjoyable riding.




Broadford Bike Bonanza

Mrs Tarsnakes & I have been attending  Broadford Bike Bonanza at Easter since its inception 6 years ago by Motorcycling Australia as a fund raiser for its historic / museum division. We don’t camp trackside, however, many folk do make a weekend of it. Previously the event has be sponsored by Honda, however, Penrite oils had the naming rights this year. Just to repeat from previous years’ posts, this is a historic event, with no racing, just demo laps and many disciplines of motorcycle sport represented – road race, motocross, trials and speedway – as the complex has specific tracks at the one site for all of these disciplines. The main theme this year for the road race track was the “Castrol 6 Hour Race“, which was a production motorcycle endurance race run in Australia between 1970 and 1987. This was a race where a win on Sunday meant sales on Monday, and Kawasaki had a great run on wins in the 1970′s with the mighty Z900, winning four years in a row from 1973.

However, I think a consequence of the “6 Hour” theme this year was that there were far fewer older British and American bikes present compared with previous years. The Velocette theme last year led to huge numbers of old Brit bikes being represented. Not that I mind Japanese bikes of the 1970′s, as they were my formative years of motorcycling!

I wish I could tell you the tale of a TX750 that was raced and podiumed by a Geelong motorcycle shop in one of the 6 Hours, however, I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

A famous 6 Hour winner, who was later disqualified, was Joe Eastmure on the 315 CC Suzuki. I still think he was brilliant, whether the little Suzi was ported or not. He later won in 1977 with Ken Blake on a BMW K100RS, stopping the big Kawasaki’s run of wins.

We always love looking at spectators’ bikes as well. This was a nice example of a mid 1970′s GT750. We enjoyed talking with Alain, the owner & restorer.

How neat is this tastefully modified 450 Ducati?

I also sneaked of few pics of my own when a photo shoot with Sir Alan Cathcart and Rex Wolfenden’s “T-Rex” Honda was being shot.Sir Al was giving the photographer all the instructions for a heap of static shots of the motorcycle before posing with Rex.

I suspect that you may see a pic like this one above in an upcoming feature article about the bike by Cathcart!

Others were having on track professional photo shoots done during the lunch break as well.

The beast!

We caught a shuttle bus over to the Speedway circuit for a 4.00-6.00pm speedway spectacular – which the Vincents in particular certainly provided. We were told by an official that the shuttle service had finished at 5.00pm so we walked all the way back to the track (a long way with a damn big hill), only to find the shuttle buses running again as we left around 6.15pm – a stuff up that I was not impressed with after a long day on my feet!

Not racing, just a demo – sure!

Again, there were all shapes and sizes of riders on all sorts of motorcycles riding in the demonstration laps – even a Vespa scooter sharing the track with Laverda’s, Nortons and some iconic 1970′s Japanese bikes. High budget to no budget at all , it is certainly an event that offers access for all levels of historic motorcycle enthusiasts.



World Trials Championship

Team Tarsnakes were accompanied by Team Tekrodes to attend the World Trials event at Mt Tarrengower near Maldon in Vic.This is the first trials event I’ve ever attended at it was so spectacular that at times I had trouble believing what my eyes were seeing. I have a few pics and some video, however, none none of them really capture how steep some of the climbs were and just how skillful the riders are – especially the top 10 professional riders. It was very much an international event, with lots of instructions being called out in Spanish, Italian or French. As I said, I know virtually nothing about trials and it was intriguing to me that the top riders had a “minder” to guide them during the tricky climbs and catch the bike it they failed to make it. It was much the same as the golfer having a caddy. Some had headsets for minder to rider comms, others just yelled. It was really amusing to hear the intensity of Bou’s minder before a difficult climb and then Bou yelling out “ready” (which sounded more like ‘reeedy’) before each run.

There was a scoreboard at each section. Numbers indicate points lost. The max that can be lost each section is 5. The observers have a tough job at times and we heard Dabill having a big rant re losing his points!

Some of my video HERE

Another video. HERE. Just check out how fit Ferrer’s minder in the green vest is, scrambling from one side of the ravine to the other – and shouting instructions!

Event results HERE

April Fools and an unseasonably hot day on the GOR

This is no joke, it’s April 1st and we’ve just experienced our hottest April 1 day ever recorded in Geelong – just a tad under 36C (96F).  Mrs T and I had planned a two-up ride for ages, however, she’s been flat out with her Careers Consultancy business Kind of ironic really, I’ve just retired and she’s now busier than ever.

Our plan was to head up into the Otways on a very familiar route through Forrest and on to Apollo Bay for lunch. After lunch we planned to track back to Geelong along the Great Ocean Road, the weather forecast promised near perfect conditions.

I’d intended to buy MrsT a coffee at the brewery in Forrest, however, it was closed so I went a few hundred metres down the road to a cafe and guesthouse. We used to drop in here a couple of years ago, however, the place was a bit ramshackle, and …. well … downright grubby. Well it changed owners about 18 months ago and what a change! We walked in and were greeted by friendly staff and saw that the place had been de-cluttered and painted out from stem to stern. And all the food is home baked! A staff member was happy to show us the renovated guest rooms, each with new ensuites , beds and paintwork. Anyway, as you can tell I’d like to give Emma and her staff a big wrap as they really deserve it. I will be returning.


There were a couple of very laconic long term guests hanging about outside. Two iconic types of Australian cattle dog.

After a skinny cap, a Coke and a Yo-Yo, we headed through the bush to Apollo Bay which is on the coast. In the hills the temp was around 22C and then as we descended down to sea level it went up by 10C. It was a glorious day there and a few people were in swimming and surfing. However, other than tourist coaches making their way through town on their way to the 12 Apostles,  ‘The Bay’  was relatively deserted – all the better for motorcycling of course. Mrs T was keen to travel back to Geelong along the GOR,  to, and I quote, “Look at the scenery” along the way – not always my highest priority I must admit!

We pulled in at Cape Patton lookout – you guessed it, to see the scenery.

It was worth stopping. View to the South along the GOR

We stopped in Lorne for a ‘pit stop’ then headed for home. Just before Aireys Inlet we were flagged over (along with a couple of cars) into a temporary breath testing station. “Any alcohol today” – “None” –”One long continuous blow please”. (And how convenient the flip front helmet is in these circumstances) Then we had a really pleasant chat about motorcycling. Turns out that he’s an enthusiast and has also just bought his wife a motorcycle. This fella and the chat with him really did the image of Victoria Police a lot of good in my eyes. Mind you, it was pretty damned hot sitting still on the bike in full gear with the temp at 34C, so we were pleased to finish the conversation and to get rolling. From Anglesea onwards there was a gusty, hot north wind blowing and we were actually glad to just get home and out of the heat.

Post script: I’ve been running a Michelin PR 3 on the rear of the ZX14R and still have the soft OEM Bridgestone on the front. What I noticed today was that whilst it still had plenty of grip on the corners and was still not quite at the wear bars, it was ‘tram tracking’ quite a bit on any tarsnakes and any overlapping ridges of asphalt. So after I dropped MrsT off at home I headed down to my regular tire guy for a new front. He immediately pointed out the asymmetry  of tire’s profile caused by 8,559 kms of wear. I was thinking I’d  probably buy a matching Pilot Road 3, (hyperlink is to an excellent review by Geoff James) however, was offered a Pilot Road 4 for the same price, so decided to give it a go. Here’s an overview of them – click HERE

More sunshine on the GOR

The joys of week day riding – no traffic!

Unbelievably it was 31C today, yet last weekend it seemed as though winter was upon us.

I have no connection with this fella, he just happened to be coming past when I had the camera out.

Inland run

I departed from my usual coastal routes and took a run inland to some of central Victoria’s old goldfields areas. Just on 400 kms in perfect conditions, made all the better by the lack of traffic.

I had intended to head to Maldon via Daylesford, however, changed my mind once the wheels were turning. I took a few photos at both Clunes and Talbot, however, they didn’t actually look that good. Rather than conveying the historic charm and character of the townships, the pics just seemed to convey neglect and decay. Fortunately the former goldfields region now boasts a thriving wine and tourism industry.

After stopping for a Coke in Clunes and a quick lap of Talbot, I headed up to Maryborough for fuel, then headed to Beaufort via Avoca for lunch. The run to Beaufort through the bush to Ampitheatre was really scenic, and a welcome change, after the parched open countryside that preceded it.

Vineyards directory at Avoca. This area is referred to as the Pyrenees wine area.

Only rotunda in Australia with clocks apparently.

Kind of fitting really!

On the last leg home from Ballarat to Geelong I decided to take the Mt Mercer road so that I could take a look at the wind farm there. It has sixty-four turbines. Mt Mercer wind farm. The ZX14 clocked over the 8,000 km mark on the ride and is going like a train. It still has the original front tire (Bridgestone) and the rear Pilot Road 3 fitted 4,400kms ago looks barely worn. I must do some research on the new Pilot Road 4 recently released by Michelin to see if I can mix a front PR4 with a rear PR3.