“And they’re racing…”

The “race that stops a nation”, the Melbourne Cup is a major sporting event on the Australian horse racing calendar, however, those who like to ride powered steeds typically turn it into a long weekend holiday and head for the mountains. It’s the beginning of Spring, the snow and ice has gone from the high country and the motorcycles are out. We did 1639 kms in three days of great riding in sunny, though sometimes windy, weather.

For more high res pictures click HERE

Day one: Geelong to Bright via Melbourne, Bairnsdale, Mt Hotham and the Great Alpine Road.

It’s not much good me going to bed too early prior to a big ride, as I’m often so full of anticipation that I don’t sleep well anyway and wake up often to check the time. The morning came eventually and I met Marty at a nearby servo ready to go at 5.50am. This departure time ensures that we don’t get stuck in the bottleneck on the run into Melbourne that is the West Gate Bridge. The ZX14R had 975kms on the clock, though I’d had its first, 1K service done earlier in the week. It was a cool 90 C and hovered around that for the first hour or so. Around two hours later we pulled into Yarragon for our fist pit stop with Melbourne well behind us and the sun shining.

From there it was a pretty boring run along the freeway to Bairnsdale, although the 110kph speed limit helps a little.

After a lunch stop in Bairnsdale we headed to Bruthen then up the Great Alpine Way. This section tends to be mainly open sweepers and we made pretty good time. After another break to shed a layer of clothes it was another good run up to Mount Hotham where we pulled in to take a few photos. There was hardly any snow left at all, although there was a cool gusty wind blowing. We had barely pulled in and a large riding group pulled in as well.

The run from Mt Hotham down to Harrietville was very instructive for me – namely that the new ZX14R is quite a different beast to ride in the tight downhill twisties than the old one was. It needed substantially more physical input and change of body position that I was accustomed to and I must say that I didn’t really come to grips with it for the whole of that section of the ride. Added to that was that there were bicycle riders racing downhill as well who were just a bloody nuisance as they blocked up the tight corners. Marty steadily rode away from me on this section and we met up under some shady trees in Harrietville, before riding into Bright via Mystic Mountain to see if any hang gliders were flying.

As we pulled into the petrol station to fuel up I spotted a black ZX14 that looked remarkably similar to the one I had traded recently, parked with a group of bikes nearby. I strolled over, and sure enough it was it. I’ve subsequently had an email from Mark, the new owner, who had only taken delivery of it the day prior to heading off on a Snowy’s run as part of a group of 21 riders. We checked into our motel, changed and headed for the recently expanded Bright Brewery, where we sampled a range of brews. We’d done a little shy of 600kms for the day and after dinner at the pub and a Jack Daniels nightcap it was off to sleep reasonably early.

Day 2: Bright to Corryong, then a Snowy’s loop including Cabramurra (nearly) Elliot Way,Tumbarumba, Jingelic, Walwa and then back to Corryong for the night. Approx 440 kms.

The weather forecast for Sunday had indicated some drizzle possible, fortunately that turned out to be completely wrong! After brekkie at Jackie’s Place we headed for Corrong via Tawonga Gap, the Gundowring road and the Murray Valley Hwy. This was a brilliant day of riding in perfect conditions. I gradually began to get the hang of negotiating the big ZX14R through the tight stuff, but still at a reasonably conservative pace. There were lots of other motorcycles in the Snowys, probably due to a big motorcycle based, fundraising event staged at Thredbo called the Snowy Ride

Interestingly, along the spectacular Murray River Road (C546) through Walwa, which was our last section for the day, we came across not one, not two, but three highway patrol cars coming towards us, each about 5 minutes apart. Two were from Vic and one from NSW. Phew!

Shortly after we checked into the Courthouse Hotel we heard the rumble of more bikes as some of the members of the Melbourne Sportsbike Riders’ Club pulled in. Their group was spread over a few accommodation venues. My CB1000R riding neighbor Mitch was part of this club and he introduced us to quite a few of the group which made for an entertaining evening at the pub. Below is a pic of one of the two nicely sorted ZX10’s from their group.

Day 3: Corryong to Albury via Walwa, then Rutherglen, Shepparton, Negambie, Seymour, Tooborac, Bacchus Marsh to Geelong. Approx 610 kms

Monday dawned pretty cool at around 3 degrees C, however, the sun was shining which made for an inviting start to the day’s riding. Mitch joined us for the run home. We left around 8.00am and took the scenic route along the Murray River Road to Walwa and beyond. It is an enjoyable and really picturesque route – mountains on one side and the Murray River on the other. I just love cruising this stretch of road, though at that hour I’m always vigilant for kangaroos, fortunately we saw none. We skirted around Albury and Woodonga, then headed west to the historic town of Rutherglen, a prolific wine producing area, for a breakfast stop. And just to add to the enjoyment, there was a vintage motorcycle rally in progress. The old machines lined up along the main street added nicely to the ambiance of the town.

From here we tracked down towards Shepparton and Marty was able to navigate us around the outskirts, so we continued to make good time down to our next stop at Nagambie. Unfortunately the cold wind was blowing quite hard  which detracted a little from enjoying the ride, though the sunshine was welcome. I kept plenty of merino layers on under the leathers and at least didn’t get cold. At Seymour we turned right and headed to Lancefield via a scenic route through the township of Tooborac. From there it was an uneventful run home which left enough time for cleaning the coating of squashed  bugs off the bike.

And so ended around 1630 kms of enjoyable riding through some glorious, scenic countryside without a drop of rain for the whole trip. The two ZX14R’s performed flawlessly. It was a thoroughly enjoyable three days of riding that also provided me with the opportunity for me to get a better feel for the new machine in a variety of road conditions.

Spyders everywhere

Mrs T and I took a short run from Geelong down to the West Barwon dam at Forrest to clock up just a few more kilometers so that the new ZX14 will be ready for its first 1,000km service next week. As we started our picnic lunch a large group of Spyders rolled in. Apparently they were part of an event called Spyder Royale, with owners from many Australian states present. You can double click on any image in the slideshow below to see the high res pics.

It was a lovely sunny Spring day to be out riding, although there were some very strong wind gusts at times.

Mrs T shot a little footage of me with the point & shoot camera – it’s a bit mediocre I’m afraid!

 

There’s a new kid in town

Kawasaki ZX14R Special Edition

Peter Stevens Motorcycles – Elizabeth St Melbourne

Full specifications HERE

Actually there is an even more special, limited edition of 50 only coming next month – but I’m sworn to secrecy right now! It will be something like THIS, but a different color for Oz.

First ride, two up with Mrs Tarsnakes to Lorne Vic.

I didn’t like the pinstripes on the side of the fairing so removed them. The one on the side cover is under the clear coat so it has to stay.

 

First winter ride for 2013 & the Shoei NeoTec

Yesterday Marty and I headed off at 9.30am for our first ride for the winter of 2013. It was sunny but cold 7-8C when we left and unfortunately hovered around 7C (44F) for most of the ride. I debated whether to don the textile gear, but the sunshine and a forecast of 16C fooled me and I went in leathers. Even with merino wool under layers and pullover I was just a tad cool all day.

However, the big news for me was that this was my first outing in my new Shoei NeoTec modular helmet. See the (not so great pic) below.

Just a bit of back story on the helmet purchase – I was a bit interested in buying a new Bell RS1 full face helmet (being the proud owner of a Bell ‘Star’ in 1975) and had researched them, along with both the Shoei TZX (Qwest) and the NeoTec. When I had a good look at the Bell in the store recently, I found, to my surprise, the Bell helmets here in Australia are actually made in China, which was disappointing as I know that they have a fantastic factory and R & D facility in the USA. I wanted a ‘Made in the USA’ lid, just to bookend with my 1975 Bell Star. Irrational? Maybe, but as the marketing people know, every purchase has an emotional component to it as much as we, the purchaser, might like to think otherwise.  So with the Bell off the list, the next consideration was the excellent Shoei TZX (Qwest) which Marty has. However, I couldn’t get any discount on an already overly expensive price. After a bit of procrastination I asked about a best price on a NeoTec. I love the convenience of my current flip front helmet, but the Shoei modular helmets really come at a premium price. I was ready to leave that store without a helmet, as I had already secured a good discount price over the phone at another dealership, who were a bit out of the way though. Long story short, I got a reasonable discount and consequently bought it at the Elizabeth St (Melbourne) dealership where I purchased my ZX14 a couple of years ago. As an aside, read all about footpath parking motorcycles in Melbourne HERE.

Readers in the USA & UK will be astounded at what we pay for helmets in Australia, which is in large part manipulated by having to meet an Australian (and New Zealand) standard (AS/NZS1698) in order to be legal for street use. So much for the global economy, free trade agreements and US and European safety standards! In fact, the US online retailers won’t even sell us Shoei visors anymore, as they are ‘prevented’ from doing so by Shoei they claim. The visor also has to meet the Australian/NZ 1698 standard.

Interestingly, the best info I could get on the NeoTec features was from a ‘non official’ Shoei site HERE

Rather than describe its features I will link to a great video review from Web Bike World and then give some of my own initial impressions, and ongoing reviews, in future posts. However, my first comment is that the build quality and finish is excellent.

Whilst I’m embedding videos, here is a really interesting look into the Shoei helmet manufacturing process.

I will do a comparison of the NeoTec Vs MultiTec features in the near future. As I don’t have any advertising on this site and buy my kit with my own money, my reviews are not compromised by incentives, only by my own human biases! So my initial impressions from the first 200 miles in the NeoTec? The sun visor worked brilliantly being able to raise and lower it riding through the bush from completely shaded areas back into the sunshine was excellent. The aerodynamics were impressive and it felt light and stable – I didn’t end up with any neck pain. Interestingly, the first thing that Marty commented on was that the helmet looked a lot let bulbous on my head than the MultiTec. Certainly the shell is far more stylish than the old model.

Any negatives so far? Well with my height in relation to the fairing screen on the ZX14, I actually found this helmet to be a fraction more noisy than the MultiTec it’s replacing – despite all the advertising to the contrary. As I wear earplugs under the helmet that really doesn’t matter much to me.

At low speed in these cold conditions the visor fogged badly. I will definitely have to purchase the Pinlock insert.

EDIT 21st June

I went into my local bike shop and was about to pay $49.95 for the Pinlock insert, when the young sales guys informed me that I was meant to get one included for free when I purchased the Neotec. It was bought from another branch of the same company, so he made a call and then handed me over the Pinlock free of charge. His initiative was very much appreciated!

The other negative experienced was mainly a function of the helmet being brand new. I found the cheek pads were way too firm and forced me into a ‘trout pout’ which became uncomfortable during the second half of the ride. However, I expect that to diminish as I ‘run it in’

Aside from the helmet focus of this post, allow me just one little rant. As Marty and I were walking back towards where we had parked our bikes in Apollo Bay we found overseas tourists hoisting a child up on to my motorcycle to take photos. I yelled out at them from a distance and they removed the child from my bike. What a bloody cheek! And there was no apology. Marty’s bike had kid’s fingerprints over the tank. They were damn fortunate, as I know some motorcycle owners who would resolve such a situation with their fists!

The cat’s away ……

I’m batching at present and planned a big ride while Mrs T is away – though just a day ride. We are having a spell of unbelievably good weather for this late in Autumn. The forecast for today was 25C and windy. Marty and I headed to Lavers Hill via the back roads from Geelong. We stopped at a new coffee shop in Lavers Hill which has some lovely recycled timber in it. From here went our separate ways, Marty headed to Apollo Bay via the Great Ocean Road and I headed for Warrnambool via the 12 Apostles and the Shipwreck coast. After lunch in W’bool I made my way back to Geelong via Timboon, Port Campbell and part of the GOR back to Lavers Hill (the twisties near the Moonlight Heads are sensational so I had to ride them twice today). From there I tracked inland to Colac. After a quick visit to Steve’s I made my way back to Geelong in failing light, but balmy temperatures. A few shots below, for high res pics click HERE

mjo

Marty at “The Shoppe” Lavers Hill (Vic)

From the inside looking out

Port Campbell (Vic)

Deakin University, Warrnambool “Sherwood Park” campus. When I was a student here in the 1970’s part of the old sandstone mansion was still in tact. All that remains now are these pillars. This is a very attractive rural campus.

 

More like summer than Autumn

Although it’s the third day of Autumn (Fall for those of you in the USA) the weather forecast for today was for 27C (80F) and sunny, although we knew it would be cooler in the hills and along the coast. Mrs T and I had been planning a trip to Johanna to check it out for a possible camping trip. Johanna is a surf beach off the ‘inland’ section of the Great Ocean Road. We left Geelong around 10.30 am in sensational conditions – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Our route from was Geelong along the Cape Otway road to Forrest which was our first coffee stop. There were a few other motorcyclist stopped there enjoying the day as well. Actually a bunch of HD’s and choppers rolled in as we were leaving – unusual to see them out in the country.

From here we headed towards Apollo Bay, then turned up Turton’s Track. Mrs T experimented with a shot from the pillion seat on the Apollo Bay road.

Turton’s Track is slow, but extremely picturesque. It comes out in Beech Forest and from here it’s only a short run up to the intersection of the GOR and then down to the Johanna beach turnoff. There were quite a few campers and surfers enjoying the beach-side national park. The pic below will give you a clue why.

We found some shade and ate our lunch. I’m so sick of buying overpriced, mediocre food whilst out riding I’ve started taking a lunch on some rides. Very old fashioned I know – I’ve become my parents!

After lunch we got back onto the GOR, having skillfully dodged a farm dog that rushed out towards the ZX14’s front wheel at warp speed. We overtook a couple of cars bunched up together, then had a completely car free run to Apollo Bay. This was probably the best run through sweepers of the bush section of the GOR that I’ve EVER had – it was that good and Mrs T is an excellent pillion in the twisties. After getting some fuel at Apollo Bay we headed a short distance along the GOR to Skene’s Creek, then headed inland up through the twisties back to Forrest for another drink stop. As we pulled up I spotted a unique looking cafe racer style TRX Yamaha and later chatted with it’s owner.

Painted in Ducati colors, it has a cafe racer kit tank, seat and fairing. I think that it looks excellent. High resolution pictures HERE and HERE. Link to video HERE

  By now it was actually getting hot. We headed for home via the back roads, thoroughly enjoying the riding and weather. All up, we covered 320 kms of great riding in perfect weather conditions. It doesn’t get much better than this and I clocked up around 645 kms for the weekend, having ridden with Marty yesterday. Actually, here’s a pic of Marty’s ZX14 yesterday with the new Delkevic pipes.

 

Two up with Mrs T again

Saturday 19 January

Mrs T had suggested a run earlier in the week and I was only too happy to agree. Saturday dawned a little cloudy and not quite as fine and sunny as forecast so we did some chores in the morning and just waited for the weather to declare itself. As midday approached we set off, though Mrs T commented that “….. it looks like the calm before the storm” – which fortunately turned out to be incorrect. I’d made some salad rolls for lunch and we set off for a leisurely ride to the West Barwon dam just near Forrest. Despite still being summer holidays for many, the roads were virtually deserted.

Unpacking lunch 

After lunch we headed towards Apollo Bay but turned off at Turton’s Track. This road is really narrow – one lane in some spots – but incredibly scenic as just about its whole length is under the canopy of huge eucalyptus tree. I should have stopped for some pics, however, there are few suitable places and the ground still looks quite soft in the rain forest. I had visions of pulling up, putting my foot down only to have it slip away and us take a tumble – so no pics this time! Actually, I just Googled for an image of Turton’s Track and actually found an old shot of my own that I’d forgotten about. See below. Just as an aside, I then Googled ‘Tarsnakes images’ as an experiment, and whilst there were lots of other people’s pics there – there were an incredible number of thumbnails of pics that I’ve taken, including many I’d forgotten about. Try it with your own screen name and see what you come up with.

By now the sky was completely blue and the temp was around 22C (71F) – perfect riding conditions really. We pulled in at Beech Forest for a brief pit stop, always a good photo op for the ZX14. Try as I might, I still haven’t taken the ‘perfect’ shot of this bike that I’m always aiming to get – you know – the one to be enlarged and placed on the office wall. I guess that I will just have to keep trying!

As you can see by the squiggles on the map, the section from point C to point F is all pretty twisty – just the kind of riding we love on a mild summer’s day.

Mrs T insisted on taking my pic, I suspect just to demonstrate how bloody annoying I am, by always taking pics of others. OK a shot of me – but only if I can keep my helmet on.

From here we headed down to Gellibrand and had a coffee at the bike friendly Gellibrand store – a favorite of ours. I mentioned to Maria how quiet it was on the roads and she was of the view that a weekend immediately before a long weekend (Australia Day long weekend next week) is always pretty quiet. Being quiet, Maria was free to chat a bit and we wound up having quite a few laughs as she told us about their last family holiday disaster.  We made our way back to Geelong via a series of back roads and I really didn’t want the ride to end – it was great just rolling along in the sunshine.

All up a satisfying day out together. Only 250 kms (155 miles) but it seemed ‘just right’ today.

 

 

 

 

Helibar riser blocks

Most of the time I’m quite comfortable with the forward lean to the handlebars on the ZX14. However, occasionally if I’m restricted to riding under 80 kph (50 mph) as can be the case on sections of the Great Ocean Road, I’ve noticed a little more weight on my wrists that I’d like.

Consequently I’ve purchased a pair of riser blocks made by Helibar. These retain the factory clip ons, but slot in under them to raise the bars 20mm and bring them back 10mm. They are literally a 10 minute install. Unfortunately Helibar won’t ship to Australia so they have to be purchased locally and cost $40 more than the US price!

The weather is so wet and cold here that I haven’t been able to go for a ride and determine whether they will make any difference. The bars now appear to be about the same height as the stock bars on the VFR800 were.

 

Congratulations Marty!

Peter Stevens showroom, Elizabeth St Melbourne. Marty with his new 2012 Kawasaki ZX14R.

Always a good idea to set the mirrors prior to hitting the city traffic for the very first time on a brand new motorcycle.

A couple of Marty’s pics from its maiden voyage

On the Great Ocean Road near Apollo Bay

A couple of my shots.

Full details for the Australian delivery ZX14 HERE

 

Lorne for coffee

It was a chilly 5C this morning, however, the bright sunshine and promise of warmer temps along the coast lured us out for a short ride along the GOR to Lorne, then home via Deans Marsh.

We sat out in the sunshine at a Greek cafe right by the pier.

Helmets by the bay!

As we were leaving a guy offered to take a shot of us by the ZX14

It got cloudy and cool as we wound our way up through the bush and the curves to Deans Marsh. We overtook a couple two up on a sport bike who were going extremely cautiously – I’m sure the bike’s stability was not helped by how high up the pillion was perched. As we came up behind them I actually thought the lass on the back was standing up as she was literally head and shoulders above the rider.Once we hit the Cape Otway Rd the sun came out and we enjoyed a good run home.