Venture Heated Jacket: First Impressions

There’s nothing quite as miserable as riding home from a ride, particularly with many kilometres to go, and being cold. Cold equals miserable in my experience of motorcycling! Don’t get me wrong, there have been massive improvements in motorcycle gear over the last 30 years, with merino wool garments, Gortex lined synthetic textile jackets and heated hand grips being right up there with the best things I’ve found for winter riding comfort.

My winter riding kit has just taken a massive leap forward with the addition of a Venture Heat, heated jacket from Zarkie Australia. The jacket is worn under your regular riding jacket.

The power supply is super easy to fit with a connector to each side of the battery and an inline fuse setup.

First Impressions in 2C: I deliberately dressed lightly for the first ride with the heated jacket and removed the inner liner from my winter jacket. The ambient temp was 2C when I headed off, so obviously I was going to be able to genuinely test how good the heated jacket would be. The Venture jacket is much thinner than the liner in my jacket. Rolling the ZX14R out of the garage, I started the motor, plugged in the connector on the Venture and held the soft switch for three seconds. (It has an inbuilt 3 stage temperature controller). By the time I’d put my helmet and gloves on there was a really impressive amount of warmth radiating under my jacket.  After 5 minutes on high (red glowing switch) the jacket automatically steps down to the medium setting (indicated by a yellow glow).

I spent the next hour riding in 3C – 7C temps with my torso wonderfully warm (augmented by warm hands from my heated grips). I also enjoyed the warmth down the outer aspects of my arms. I believe that Venture also make heated gloves that plug straight into the jacket sleeves, however, I have no experience with them.

Once it got above 10C later in the ride I turned the controller down to the low setting (green glow from switch) and was plenty warm. Other than the obvious thing of being beautifully warm, the jacket had two other advantages over my traditional multiple layers. The first being that with light clothing and the Venture under my jacket, I wasn’t all trussed up and had much more freedom of movement than I have with my multiple merino layers. The second unexpected bonus was that the warmth felt really great for my chronic back pain!

The verdict on the Venture heated jacket? Based on my first shortish ride of around 200 kms I was very, very impressed. It was my most comfortable winter ride ever and I genuinly believe that avoiding getting cold is a big plus in terms of riding safety.

I will write further updates in the upcoming months as I use the jacket in a diverse range of weather conditions. Full details on this product, check the deluxe jacket on the Zarkie website

There is a caveat to this review, namely that I was given the jacket by Zarkie to test and review free of charge. All that was asked was that I write a review and link to their website. I was told that I can keep it, but let me say there was not even a hint that I had to be positive about the product – just try it and write a review. So keep in mind before you spend your hard earned, that I did not!

All British Rally

Saturday 22nd April, Marty and I took a drive (in the car!) to the All Brit at Maldon. We left the ZX14’s in the garage as it had been raining overnight and most of the day before. The All Brit is based at Newstead, Vic, however, they take a short ride to the nearby historic town of Maldon where the old motorcycles and hundreds of spectators take over the main street for a few hours.

The BSA below was restored by my mate Andy, and only completed two days prior to the rally. His Commando Fastback is in the background.

First model Series A, Rapide –  known as the ‘The Plumbers Nightmare’

That’s a smattering of motorcycles I photographed. Click on the link to see a gallery of pics. CLICK HERE

Jay Leno gives an authoritative run down on the Series A Rapide in the video below

Broadford Bike Bonanza 2017

Mike B from our local Ulysses Branch put out a call for anyone interested in accompanying him to the BBB on Easter Saturday, 15th April. Apparently I was the only taker, so he and I met at the BP servo near Lara (Melb side of Geelong) and took the most direct route via the Princes Hwy, Western Ring Rd and Hume Freeway to the Broadford motorcycle complex. This year we were able to park in a new spot, adjacent to the pits at the roadrace circuit which was great. The theme was ‘All things Ducati”, which other than bikes, included some famous past Aussie Ducati riders such as Troy Bayliss and Kevin Magee.

I was barely off the bike and bumped into Tom and Tim K, which made for a great start to the day. I’ve written previously about Tom’s mentoring and influence on me as a youngster HERE

Obviously there were some pretty exotic Dukes on display. The green framed bike is as rare as rocking horse poo!

But it wasn’t just Ducatis that caught my eye. A few ‘Green Meanies’ as they were known.

IOM racer, Cameron Donald, aboard the Irving Vincent.

Although there was an official autograph signing session on in the arvo, we saw Troy Bayliss and Kevin Magee in the pits and they very generously let us have a pic with them  Pity I’m looking so grim! Kevin come across as a really genuine, nice fella.

Michael with Troy Bayliss. It was worth the admission price just for that shot!

Nice Yamaha XS1

Video below may take a few moments to load

I didn’t bring my SLR camera this year, so virtually no ‘on track’ pics. What I can tell you though was just how fast Troy Bayliss and Kev Magee still are out on the track! Each of them were spectacular on their demo laps!

It was a great day out. For enthusiasts of old motorcycles, I have a gallery of photos HERE.

Porepunkah 2017

We had a great long weekend away with friends from the Ulysses Club last weekend, March 3-6. Others left on Friday and spent the first night in Sale and then traveled to Porepunkah via Bruthen and Mt Hotham. We rode up on Saturday and traveled from Geelong via Bacchus Marsh, Boadford, Yea, Mansfield, and then over to Whitfield and along the King Valley. Sunday we took a long loop up to the Murray River, which was a very scenic run. Some more detail to follow, just a few pics for now! Altogether Mrs Tarsnakes and I did 1400kms door to door and the ZX14R performed flawlessly. Thanks again to Ron H (AKA Gentle) for all the route planning and booking accomodation.

The mighty Kawasaki 

Great music on Saturday and Sunday night was the focal point for the group

Sunday’s route

Lunchtime at Walwa

Expensive fuel in Walwa

Mrs Tarsnakes & Tanya in Yackandandah

Downtown Yackandandah on a Sunday arvo

Afternoon drinks at The Rusty Bike

A backdrop of Crepe Myrtles – in Myrtleford!

A pit stop after the run from Whitfield to Mansfield


Island Classic 2017

On 28 January I took a day trip to Phillip Island on the ZX14R. The reason for this trip was the annual Island Classic race meeting, featuring teams from the UK, Ireland, NZ, the USA and Aust. I really like this event – not just for the bikes and racing, but also because a standard entry ticket provides full access to the pits and the pit roof area. And it’s quite OK to ride through the tunnel into the centre of the track and anywhere around the track outer perimeter. That’s good access for getting involved in an event. It was beautiful weather with plenty of sunshine and temps around 22 -25C – pretty good for PI!

When I first arrived I headed for the museum to see the new collection of racing winning Cagivas that they have just purchased and put on display.

After a look at the bikes and the info at the Visitor Centre I headed back into the track and straight through to park in the centre of the track. It was great wandering around the pits enjoying all the sights and sounds, and of course, events like this bring out some pretty special spectators’ bikes.

I spent ages peering into various pit garages and photographing the bikes and people fettling them. I’m always more interested in the 1970’s and 1980’s superbikes than the really old British and American iron.

I even managed to get up close to a few of the British team stars during their lunch break. Jeremy Williams, below, is still an incredibly gifted rider. His lap times and race craft was spectacular.

The fella below has won a few trophies at the Isle of Man TT races I believe!

Above: John McGuinness

Above: Cameron Donald

After a really good wander around the pits I headed over to the inside of Turn 4 to take some race photos with my ageing SLR. As I said, Jeremy McWilliams (#99) at age 52 can still really ride at a very high level and led every race that I saw him in.

The big Irving Vincent powered sidecar was impressive, however, the real star exhibit was the priceless Britten.

By around 3.45pm I was done and headed over to my Kawasaki and kitted up to head for home. As I was doing so a fella with some pretty impressive camera gear stopped to chat and take a couple of pics of the Kwaka. I got talking photography him and it turned out to be none other than legendry Team Kawaski Australia racer Murray Sayle! That topped off an already excellent day. A gentle ride completely around the outside of the track to take in all the sights and I was off towards Melbourne in still, perfect riding conditions.

Link to a gallery of photos, CLICK HERE






Snowys invitational

A few weeks ago I was invited to come on a five day ride through the Victorian High Country to the Snowy Mountains area. Of course I jumped at the offer! It was great to be a guest on someone’s ride, rather than being a participant in planning and booking accommodation and the like. 

DAY 1: Four of us from Geelong met around 8.30am on Saturday 21st Jan then took the Princes Hwy, Western Ring Rd and Hume Freeway as far as Broadford, then turned inland and met the rest of the crew in Yea. From Yea we headed to Mansfield for lunch and then hit the twisties from Mansfield over to Whitfield. Bob’s bike actually made slight contact with a Ducati that was sliding down the road towards him, along with a fallen rider who was coming from the other direction. From Whitfield it was a lovely cruise down the King Valley, then up the Tawonga Pass and then up to Mt Hotham for the night. All up 595 kms for the day. 

DAY 2: After a reasonable night’s sleep at Mt Hotham (I never sleep really well the first night away) we packed up and Ron the builder led us down to Omeo in the cool morning air. After a great breakfast we headed along the Omeo Hwy to Mitta Mitta. I led this section and these continuous curves are exactly what the ZX14 is built for. I got into a nice rhythm and Graham tucked in behind me.  He and I stopped about 20kms out of Mitta Mitta and waited for the rest of the crew to catch up. I think the Victory’s of Peter and Ron were a bit of a handful in the tight twisties. We had a break under the trees by the Mitta Mitta River and then it was off to Tallangatta for lunch. It was a very pleasant 25C temp at Talangatta and the rest of the day we rode under clear, blue skies. From here we rode up the Granya Gap then along the banks of the Hume Weir on the Murray River Rd (C546) to Walwa. This section was incredibly green and scenic. By now it was getting pretty warm (around 30C) and after some cold drinks (non-alcoholic!) we crossed the border into NSW and  rode onwards to Tumbarumba via the Tooma Rd. We pulled into my favourite spot at the Southern Cloud memorial lookout. It was a cruisy run the rest of the way to Tumbarumba and by the time we checked into the pub, we were well and truly ready for some cold beers, followed later by a pretty good counter meal at the same pub. Total = 405kms.

Roadside debrief after riding the twisties of the Omeo Hwy.

DAY 3: Day three’s ride commenced at a ‘Gentle’ pace in sunny weather, yet again. It was an easy pace as a couple of the ‘fellas were feeling the effects of the prior two days, mainly in the form of back and shoulder pain. Both were Victory mounted actually and clearly that style of bike is a lot of work in tight, twisty stuff. It was great cruising along past all the commercial apple orchards in the cool morning air. We headed over to Tumut, then had a really nice run along the Snowy Mountains Highway (B72) to Adaminaby for lunch. Max and I had a spirited run for quite a few kilometers which was exhilarating. After lunch and a couple of pics of the big trout, we motored over to Berridale. As we checked into the motel early in the afternoon, so Jimbo, John, Max and I took off for a scenic loop of the region which took in Dalgety, Jindabyne and Lake Eucambene. By now it was pretty hot and after a little dirt tracking at the lake (thanks Garmin!) we headed back to our lodgings at Berridale. The local pub was the venue for our evening meal as it was the only place open! However, being Monday all they had available was pizza – so pizza it was! I had a great sleep in a comfy motel bed. All up with Eucambene circuit = 390 kms.

The long & short of the crew!

DAY 4:  

As this was to be a reasonably long day we headed off just after 8.00am and took a nice morning run down to Bombala for brekky, via Dalgety and a short section of the Monaro Hwy. John headed for the coast from here, on his way to spend a few days in Canberra. After breakfast we travelled down to Cann River via the Monaro Hwy. Even though it is a highway, it is quite a scenic and enjoyable ride down the Monaro. Passing by the Mt Imlay without a quick squirt down it was a bit sad though! True to form, we barely reached the Victorian state border and it started to rain! The quality of the road surface became poor as well, compared with NSW.

From Bruthen we took a convoluted route to our destination at Mirboo North. Most of this was just boring straight roads that needed to be traversed to get to our accommodation at Mirboo North. We’ve stayed at the 1st Tee motel at the golf course previously and Stan always looks after us with a good price on the rooms and by arranging for someone from the pub to ferry us to the pub for our evening meal. All up, 506 kms.

Would Jimbo be tempted from his Harley by the Victory?

DAY 5: After a light breakfast in our rooms we saddled up, fuelled up and headed for a cruisy ride along the Grand Ridge Road (C484). It was wonderful just bopping along with views from the Strzelecki Ranges in the morning light. We crossed the Princes Hwy and headed up from Neerim South to join the scenic, twisty Yarra Junction – Noojee road. At Powelltown we pulled in to the pub – which is every bit as much café as it is pub. There is a very pretty seating area out the back that adjoins the rainforest.

After coffees we said our farewells as three of the group would be turning off a little further down the road near Yarra Glen. The scenic riding continued and at Kinglake we came across a random breath-testing station. That was no problem and then about 15 minutes later were pulled over by two motorcycle cops coming in the other direction. Our lead rider continued on thinking that the flashing lights were all about  the car immediately ahead of us which had no number plates. One cop took off after him and pulled him over whilst the other cop directed us to ride up the where Graham had been pulled over – I guess it’s a safety thing for them. Anyway, the no rego plates car was just ignored! Our licenses were all checked and our details written down (surprisingly no electronic devices were used). Jimbo’s now well-worn rear tyre drew the officers’ attention and he was advised to have it replaced ASAP. However, none of us were booked and the cops were friendly and professional in their interaction with us. We pulled in for lunch at Wallan. From here is was a perfunctory run around the outskirts of Melbourne then on to Bacchus Marsh where there was yet another breath testing station. This time we were waved on! Obviously there was a blitz on leading up to the Australia Day long weekend. I rolled into my driveway late in the afternoon having done 402 kms for the day and a grand total of 2,298 kms for the trip.

Many thanks to Ron for inviting me on this ride. He’d done an excellent job with all the trip planning including routing, loading the roads into his GPS and booking the accommodation. There was lots of laughs and banter with a great bunch of fellas. All the bikes ran well and we had no mechanical issues or any other problems. It was a brilliant run which I thoroughly enjoyed, with great company and excellent roads and scenery.

Unfortunately closed on Tuesday we were in town.

Powelltown pub

Major service

On Monday I took the ZX14R to Dynoverks in Boronia to have a major service done. It was left overnight so that the engine was cold on Tuesday for the valve clearance checking. The price quoted here was cheaper than the big dealerships and I’d had a personal recommendation from a former ZX14R owner who had work done there previously.

The major aspects were:

  • Valve clearances adjusted (three were out of spec)
  • Brakes bled and fluid replaced
  • Clutch fluid changed
  • Radiator coolant changed
  • Spark plugs replaced
  • Air filter replaced
  • Oil & filter changed
  • “Inspected” everything that you can think of

I’d really let the air filter go far too long and it was filthy, probably as a result of a trip to the Flinders Ranges. The fact that the bike was still running strongly and  smoothly on a restricted air filter and on spark plugs that had done 57K kilometers is amazing to me.

I dropped in to see Pete de K on the way home. He was cleaning his prized ’64 EH Holden Special. This is a rare colour, low mileage and is immaculate and completely stock inside and out.

The traffic leaving Melbourne had thinned out by the time I got to the Westgate Bridge and I had a good run home. Happy to be back around 8.30pm on a very sweet running Kawasaki. I also received a follow up call from Dean at Dynoverks the next day to make sure that I was happy with their service and how the bike was running.





Spring 12 Apostles loop

After months of apalling weather characterised by gale force winds and localised flooding, we finally cracked it for a perfect spring day on Friday. Inspired by a recent video that I saw on Facebook of the Ducati owners club of Vic run to the 12 Apostles, I decided to ride one of my favorite local loops. The route travels inland to Port Campbell, then back along a short section of the Great Ocean Road (in the opposite direction to the GOR tourist traffic) and then inland through some rain forrest. I also managed to drop in on Phil R, a mate from the Ulysses Club, and see his new abode at Deans Marsh. It was a sensational day of riding with little traffic, dams overflowing and the countryside more green and lush than I can ever recall.

I stopped in Simpson for my first break and then on to Port Campbell via Timboon.

Overlooking Port Campbell.

Lunch at the waterfront in Port Campbell.

This was a whole lot more tasty than it looks – proscuitto, egg, spinach and relish. A delicious lunch from an excellent, friendly place called ‘Forage‘ right oppposite the main beach. I actually took my plate from the cafe and walked across the road to be virtually on the beach for lunch.

From Port Campbell I headed just a few kilometers up the road to the famous 12 Apostles. I’ve been to the Apostles so many times in my life I have to admit that I get more of a buzz watching the helicopters than the scenery! (Maybe my son will buy me a joyflight for my next big birthday!)

I love the way that the grazing sheep seem completely unfazed by the chopper landing

From the Apostles I had a brilliant run through the twisties to Lavers Hill (my last run along this stretch of the GOR cost me 3 demerit points and $300 thanks to a newly imposed speed restriction and my inattention to the new signage) and then on to Beech Forest and Turtons Track.

From here it was another 20 kms of twisty bush roads to Forrest, then through mainly open farmland to Deans Marsh. After enjoying Phil’s hospitality I headed off andarrived home around 5.30pm after a magnificient day’s riding.