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
but a better overall explanation on MC News HERE. It has a hard compound center, and the edges are medium compound. Mind you, feeling the center section (OK, I’m resorting to American spelling 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 and tread grooves don’t go right out to the edge of the tire 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. There are some slippery, mossy spots and some damp corners under the tree cover.

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 at 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. Even the highly rated PR3 that came off the rear had some scalloping on it that I think is quite unacceptable on such expensive tyres. The scalloping issue is reasonably common when one speaks with ‘real world’ riders, but hardly gets a mention in MC magazine tyre review articles.

 

Autumn

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.

 

 

 

Coast in the AM, inland for the PM

I took a short solo coastal ride Thursday morning, then a twilight ride to Andy’s place in Ballarat with Marty. In the morning I experimented with an old camera on a lanyard for some pics ‘on the fly’.

The morning ride

Below: main beach at Lorne Vic.

Below: The Lorne to Dean’s Marsh road

Not speeding!

The afternoon ride

Marty and I headed off a little after 5.00pm and took some back roads via Mt Mercer inland to Ballarat. It had warmed up to around 33C, but the riding was pleasant until……. Marty suffered a puncture of his rear tyre. He’s unsure what did it, but it left a large hole, though nothing was embedded. Fortunately we had a puncture plugging kit and once we located the hole had it “fixed”  and headed on to Andy’s motorcyle restoration workshop. The three pics below demonstrate completed, in progress and yet to be touched projects. All are 1973 Suzuki two strokes, 250, 350 and 750 respectively.

As the tyre plug was leaking slightly we left Marty’sZX14R and rode home two up on mine. The plan being to get a new tyre fitted the next day.

Here’s an update: the T350 Suzuki that was “in progress”is now completed. Pics below.

A nice pair.

 

 

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.

 

Pre-Christmas on the Great Ocean Road

My neighbor Mitch and I made an early start around 7.00 am to beat the holiday traffic on the GOR. Our route ran from Geelong along the GOR to Lorne where we turned inland and headed to Forrest via Dean’s Marsh. After a brief stop at the West Barwon reservoir we headed to Apollo Bay for a coffee stop and re-fuel. Check out what I paid for 98 octane in Apollo Bay in the pic below. You guessed it – there is only one gas station and it’s holiday season! From Apollo Bay we rode the GOR back to Lorne and encountered surprisingly little traffic. We didn’t stop in the tourist mayhem of Lorne but again headed back inland to Dean’s Marsh and had another pit stop. From here I headed to Colac to visit Steve and Mitch headed home. It was an excellent run in perfect motorcycling conditions, namely blue skies, no wind and around 25C temp.

Yes, that $185.9 per litre! Holiday season profiteering?

Mitch (AKA Sir Skuffy in some circles) can really hustle this modded Honda CB1000R.

Ohlins rear suspension matched to his weight and modded front forks.

Heated grips, bar end mirrors & small aftermarket screen

In a moment of introspection, brought about by this ride and a recent birthday, it occurred to me that I have now been riding the GOR in all kinds of conditions for 40 years now. The run from Lorne up to Colac reminded me of my first covert winter runs along the GOR as an unlicensed 16 year old on my Yamaha 175 trail bike, the occasional ride on Andy’s 250 Suzuki Hustler, and also blasting along the GOR on either of my CB750 Hondas (with the young Ms Tarsnakes on the back), let alone the evil handling Kawasaki Z1R!

On the topic of Kawasaki’s, the ZX-14 performed beautifully and my love affair with the big Kwaka continues! It is hands down the best motorcycle I’ve ever owned. It’s also worth a mention that the 2012 ZX-14R won Two Wheels magazine’s “Bike of the Year” award.

Autumn in the Otways

Last week we planned to ride the Otways on Easter Sunday with our partners aboard, however, the weather was cold and windy. The newspapers all reported that Easter had marked the last of the good weather, even though it’s early autumn (fall). Well the weather forecasters got it all wrong yet again and we’ve just had a sensational weekend with blue skies and the temps in the mid to high 20 Celsius range.

We met Marty & Pauline on the outskirts of Geelong and headed towards Colac via Dean’s Marsh. It was a glorious, one T-shirt under the leathers, kind of morning. Our first stop was at Maria & Paul’s store in Gellibrand. It’s our usual first coffee stop. It was great to be greeted via the the kitchen window as we pulled up with “Hello Tarsnakes – I’ve been looking at your blog lately” from Maria.

On the counter were ‘Choo Choo Bars’ which excited the girls enormously – not having seen them since their childhood days!

I’ve been meaning to take a shot of their fabulous antique cash register for some time. Isn’t it a ripper?

It was a bit early for lunch, so we headed on just a little further to Lavers Hill. The road twists its way uphill through the bush and it is a great strip of scenic and fun road to ride. Both Marty and I are fortunate in that we both have excellent passengers who enjoyed the run up through the winding road as much as we did.

Lunch stop at Lavers Hill. The colors of the vine covering the outdoor deck are lovely. Pauline took a few shots and then the waitress offered to take a pic of all of us (though it’s not so good due to shooting into the sun).

From Lavers Hill we rode the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay in perfect conditions.

Blue sky as far as the eye can see.

 

Other than fuel, we didn’t stop in Apollo Bay. We were in for a shock, I’m not sure if you can read that gas price – but it is just on $1.88 per LITRE for premium!!

We had a great run up through the hills to Forrest, where we stopped at the Brewery for a break and a chat before the final  run back to Geelong. All up we did 312 Kms through some great countryside in excellent – and unexpected – sunshine.

Great company, great roads and great weather – a motorcyclist can’t ask for any more than that!

 

Weekday Otways run

Marty and I took a run through the Otways today as we are both on holidays and it was a perfect day for a weekday ride.

Our first stop was the Gellibrand store, where Maria was sporting a Gellibrand “Blues & Blueberry Festival” T-Shirt. This will be a huge gig for a tiny township on 3 March. For details see Moshtix. Here’s a shot of their flyer in the shop window.

We had a great run with very little traffic from Gellibrand to Lavers Hill and the same along the GOR to Apollo Bay. It was too good to be true, and the traffic from Apollo Bay to Forrest was a bit slow.

Some pics of the bikes parked in the shade at Apollo Bay.

Marty’s ZX9R

We pulled in to Forrest microbrewery for a drink (non alcoholic when we’re riding) and a bit more of a chat. Some older fella who had been really flying through the curves in his car insisted we join him. We did so and also bumped into Fiona who we know from our work who was working there.

The weather was perfect for riding with the temp at around 22C and lots of blue sky & beautiful sunshine – 315 kms of “moto-therapy”.

 

New Year’s Day 2012

Happy New Year to all who follow Tarsnake’s blog!

The West Coast Procrastinators got their act together again to reprise our New Year’s Day 2011 run. The aim for the day was to ride some back roads and then enjoy a leisurely lunch to usher in the New Year at the cafe at a distillery in the tiny Western District township of Timboon (Pop 850). This place is just inland from the famous 12 Apostles and the gas processing plant for the Casino Natural Gas off shore rigs is based nearby.The motorcycles present were two early 1970’s Norton Commandos and two big bore Kawasakis.

Andy had a gift for us –  a couple of personalized stubby holders each!

Let me tell you a little about the “Procrastinators”, just in case you are new to Tarsnakes. In addition to his Norton Commando, Andy has numerous other motorcycles. Complete and running are a 500cc BSA twin, a lovely 1972 T250 Suzuki Hustler, and an old 350cc Panther single. Under restoration are a 450 Ducati and another BSA. I’ve probably missed some of his machines, as there are numerous other motorcycles in various states of completion.

Other than his Commando, Steve has another complete and rideable 500cc twin cylinder Norton Dominator, a Norton 500cc single and a 1970′s RD350 Yamaha (which he rode to some of the most remote parts of Australia on back in 1979). He also kindly houses my wife’s rideable, but incomplete, early 1970′s 175 Yamaha CT1 dirt bike. Both of these guys were my mates from our teenage years, when we came together with a love of motorcycles and riding as our common bond.

Neither Marty nor I are are into restoring old motorcycles. He’s my main touring buddy (and features in most rides reports on this blog) and we’ve been great friends for the past 26 years.

Our route. For a bigger map click HERE

I had some new gloves to try out. They are Held Steve II’s, featuring kangaroo skin palms. They are a recent birthday gift from Mrs Tarsnakes.

Marty and I met on the edge of town. The blue sky, a forecast top of 35C and the lack of traffic looked very promising for a great day of riding. I guess many folk were still in bed being New Year’s Day.

About 40 minutes later Marty and I arrived at our rendezvous point near Colac (Vic) which is approx 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Melbourne. From here we headed to Timboon via Cobden.

Lunch venue. The Timboon Railway Shed Distillery

The motorcycles in front of the distillery. Steve’s Norton in front.

Andy’s Commando

Me astride the ZX14.

The West Coast Procrastinators doing what they do best!

It was time for some lunch and we secured a table out on the decking. The temp was climbing, I’d say approx 26C by this stage. Some had beef, some had pie & some had fish. The background music included a Derek Truck’s band number so all was good.

No whisky for us, but at least it was local.

I’d heard of an old timber trestle rail bridge in the area so we asked for directions and headed off to check it out. “Watch out for snakes down there” our waitress warned. It was down a dusty, corrugated gravel road, but certainly well worth a look.

Arty shot as suggested by Marty.It was really hot down in this valley, maybe 35C and no breeze to be had at all. The bikes were parked in the shade!

Here’s a framed shot of Steve.

The bridge is now used as part of a bicycle path. One of many “rail trails” in the Australian countryside.

Two brave motorcyclists walk across the bridge towards a large black creature with horns.

Two brave motorcyclists return, the horned creature stands its ground!

By the time we rode the few kilometers back up the corrugated, gravel road Andy was concerned that his clutch wasn’t feeling quite right nor functioning correctly so he and Steve decided to head for home back along the way we had come, rather than taking in the 12 Apostles – Great Ocean road loop.

Marty and I said our farewells and headed off to the coastal township of Port Campbell. We fueled up and the rode the GOR through the twisties to Laver’s Hill. At Laver’s Hill we turned off the GOR and headed inland to Beech Forest and then Forrest via Turton’s Track. from there we headed back to Colac to see that the Norton devotees had arrived home OK, which thankfully they had!

We sat in Steve’s shed and chewed the fat for a while, then Marty and I saddled up and headed back to Geelong via Hwy 1. All up, 385 kms of scenic and really enjoyable riding with mates.

Summer has finally arrived – it’s forecast to be 41C (105F) here today!

To see this report on Pashnit motorcycle forum click HERE

Two Zeds to the 12 Apostles

We finally got the two ZX14’s together for a post Christmas ride. Pete and Robyn were on a trip from Melbourne to country South West Victoria and team Tarsnakes arranged to ride part of the trip with them. They rode from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and met us at our place in Geelong. An ideal run would be to ride the whole Great Ocean Road, however, the reality of such a ride with all the Christmas holiday traffic heading to the beach resorts really makes such a run just too frustrating, so we rode the back roads inland to the tiny township of Gellibrand and joined the GOR at Laver’s Hill.

Here’s our route

It was a little cooler than forecast for a summer’s day, but quite OK never the less.

The two big Kwakas together for the first time at our Gellibrand coffee stop.

The old saying that it’s a small world is often very true – it turned out that Paul from the store (an avid dirt bike rider) and Pete actually went to school together many years ago.

Pete and Robyn aboard the red one.

Plus team Tarsnakes on the black one

From Gellibrand it seemed to take no time up through the twisties to our lunch stop at Lavers Hill.

Good food and magnificent views over the Otway Ranges.

The traffic along this part of the GOR towards the 12 Apostles was as expected – namely bloody awful, especially along the best bits!

We had a look at these.

I’ve edited all the people out of the following shots, but trust me, the place was jam packed with tourists like never before.

The Tarsnakes – 31 years married and still having lots of fun messing around on motorcycles.

 

Mrs T, Robyn & Peter

 

The sandstone cliffs are crumbling – all that rubble at the bottom is new rock fall.

The choppers were on constant rotation and still the queues for flights were long.

From here we split up and went in opposite directions, Peter & Robyn headed further west and we headed back the way we came. We were then running against the flow of tourist traffic and had a brilliant run on the curves through the Otways and then just had 80 kms (approx 50 miles) of freeway back to Geelong.

All up it was a great day’s riding and it was fun to have the two big Kawasaki’s together, observe each others bike in motion and really appreciate their incredible capability as two-up Sport- touring motorcycles.

To see this report on the PASHNIT motorcycle forum, click HERE

Post script 2nd January 2012

Peter & Robyn dropped in on their way home having ridden parts of the GOR today. But this was no day to be riding a motorcycle, it was 40C (104F) when they left for Melbourne!

 

Saturday morning at Forrest

Being so close to Christmas we all seem pretty busy and a motorcycle ride certainly didn’t rate very highly on Mrs Tarsnakes agenda for me. It was the same situation at Marty’s household, however, he had a new helmet to road test and a new front tire to scrub in. So in the spirit of compromise it was decided over dinner last night that the boys could go out for the morning, but would be back by lunchtime for their family responsibilities. It occurred to me that between the two couples we have a total of 65 years of married life – so I guess that we’ve become good negotiators over the years! Actually, we are both lucky ‘fellas to have great partners who are so supportive of our motorcycling addiction!

Here’s a couple of pics from our short time off the leash this morning.

The reason for our ride – Marty’s new Shoei. It’s a TZ-X in Aust, but called a Qwest elsewhere in the world.

It was pretty quiet at Forrest, just us and the 1960 Morris Minor ute (pickup for those of you in the USA).Just as we were about to leave a couple pulled in on a 1975 Mark 3 Norton Commando 850. They were heading inland from the coast. I have to mention that there was not a single drop of oil leaked from this old Brit classic whilst parked!

All up we had a great morning run in very pleasant 23 C temperature. Maybe this is the beginning of the Summer that hasn’t happened yet.

PS – For all Kawasaki fans, a great 1970’s promotional video HERE