Reviewed: Viking AXE Saddlebags

I’ve been meaning to do up a review of the Viking AXE Saddlebags for Sportbikes for a while now, but summer in Newfoundland means trying to fit a year’s worth of activities into three months. Add work, running and rowing into the mix, and I have very little time to ride, other than back and forth to work. I’ve finally found time to a) Install these saddlebags on my TW200, and b) Try them out.

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Guest Post: A Special Road Trip – Riding out to the National Motorcycle Museum

Here’s a guest post by Ania Todua at Motorcycle House. Links, pictures and opinions are hers. Read the rest of this entry

Off-Road Lessons: Riding in Sand

I’ve owned my TW200 for over a year, so I’m still a novice when it comes to off-road riding. As confidence-inspiring as that bike is, there are still situations where I feel anxious and completely incompetent as a rider.

One of those situations was riding in sand. What better place to conquer that fear than in Musgrave Harbour, with its miles of sandy beaches!

Mark literally grew up riding on the beach, and had these words of instruction: “keep your feet down in the soft sand, then get closer to the water where the sand isn’t as loose.” OK then.

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Weeeeeeeeee!

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Sand as far as the eye can see!

So I managed to get through the soft sand without going down in a pile, and gradually picked up some speed when I got on the firmer sand. Though I *know* that it’s a fact that a bike is easier to control when it’s going faster, there comes a point when that fact gets pushed aside by the thought of “if I’m going any faster than this and crash, it will ruin my entire summer”. So I found a happy balance, puttering down the beach as the waves gently rolled in.

Learning to ride off-road as an adult can be a daunting task, but good instruction, determination and the promise of a soft serve afterwards can do wonders for self-confidence!

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Nothing to it, sure!

 

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Two Yammies on the beach. The IT200 is looking good for her age!

A Taste of the T’Railway

I’m old enough to remember the trains in Newfoundland. It’s kind of hard to forget really, when the tracks were less than 150 feet (45m) from the house where I grew up. The daily rumble stopped in 1988 when the railway was officially abandoned for economic reasons, and the rails and ties were removed. In 1997, the trail was “re-purposed”, and the 883 km (549 miles) of railway bed became the T’Railway Provincial Park, a multi-use trail spanning the island from St. John’s to Port-Aux-Basques. Within St. John’s and Conception Bay South the T’Railway is enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists and cross-country skiers (motorized vehicles are prohibited), but the rest of the trail is open to ATV’s, dirtbikes, side-by-sides and snowmobiles.

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First Day Trip of 2016

One of the things I miss most during the winter months is day-tripping on the Vstrom. I love leaving town on a weekend morning-before most “Sunday drivers” get out on the go-with no destination other than a good place to grab a bite. I’m really not sure if checking out a new restaurant is an excuse for a bike ride, or the other way around!

I really can’t recall going for a day-trip this early in the season before, but the forecast looked promising. I set up a ride using the NL Adventure Rider Meetup group, and we had seven riders show up. The group is relatively new, with the goal of bringing together riders who enjoy longer trips and riding “off the beaten track”. If that sounds like you, by all means join up!

We set off from St. John’s around 11am, took the CBS bypass to Seal Cove, and continued along the lovely Route 60 with very little traffic. Bliss!

I’m not sure how many layers everyone else was wearing, but I had on four and I needed every one of them when we hit Conception Bay North and the wind was coming off of the water, a dense bank of dark fog hovering ominously. I’ll place the blame squarely on the weather forecasters who foretold a westerly wind. The fog was burning off as it hit land though, and I was just happy to be spending the day on the bike – despite the fact that my heated grips were threatening to ignite my gloves.

Our lunch destination was Crooked Phil’s Cafe in Carbonear. It’s a beautiful, bright little spot with a great menu, incredibly friendly service and very reasonable prices. I had veggie pizza and a salad, and of course about a gallon of hot coffee!

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It’s salad dressing, not molasses. I swear. 

After lunch our companions all headed back to town, either turned off by the cold or having to see to other commitments, leaving just myself and Mark. We headed off in the direction of Heart’s Content, which was a good description of my mood at the time. Nobody to answer to, nowhere to be. Just me and the bike, with the sun shining down on the open road.

This is my eighth summer riding a motorcycle, but there’s still places on the Avalon that I haven’t seen. The Heart’s Content lighthouse was one of those places. It’s not particularly spectacular or remote, but a very pretty spot all the same.

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I love the “barber pole” paint scheme. 

We returned via Route 80, along the coast of Trinity Bay. It was much warmer than the Carbonear side, so we really enjoyed the ride back to meet the TCH at Whitbourne. It was hard to believe that it’s still pre-May 24: the unofficial start of Newfoundland summer.

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Stretch break/photo-op in Whiteway

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A close up of “Shag Rock”. Pretty spectacular rock formations in the bay!

If you know of any other great little restaurants I can use as an excuse for a day trip, I’d love to hear from you!

Brief Glimpse at a Dream Job

This past Monday morning was nice enough to take the bike to work. I was happily winding my way through the streets that make up my centre city neighbourhood, and was actually stopped at the intersection that marks the start of the Great Fire of 1892 when I noticed police cars and fire trucks on Freshwater Road. I quickly changed the trajectory of the Vstrom and went to take a look.

The fire had broken out in a vacant building, it used to be a business of sorts but had been empty for at least a year or so.

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In a place where everything is around 100 years old, made of wood, and most buildings are attached, fires are kind of a big deal. Luckily this fire was so close to the fire hall (I’m actually standing in their parking lot taking the picture) that it didn’t take long for the crews to start fighting it.

After I tweeted a picture and informed drivers to avoid the area, I had to get a move on. I would’ve loved to hang around longer, get closer to the action, get some great pictures. For this “news junkie” motorcyclist, the ultimate dream job would be roving motorcycle reporter! It would be a summer-only gig obviously, but what a gig!

Brush fire? The TW200 could get me closer to the scene than any 4×4. Pile-up on the ORR with traffic at a standstill? I could ride up the median. Fire in the heart of the downtown? I’d employ some creative usage of the sidewalk.

Hmmm…retirement plan?

 

 

 

A Most Hopeful Time of Year

Spring has a bad reputation around here. It’s season of rain, drizzle and fog; interspersed with snowstorms, freezing rain and the rare pleasant day that cumulates in sunburns throughout the entire population.

So why do I love it so much?

Because it’s the season of hope. It’s a time to make plans to pack as much enjoyment as possible into the tiny window of time that we call summer.

Day-long excursions with lunches at tiny out-of-way cafes…the simplicity and satisfaction of motorcycle camping…a cold beer by the fire after a day exploring…hikes to see spectacular oceanside scenery…calm mornings on Quidi Vidi lake…motorcycle commuting…off-road adventures on the TW200…these are the things that I look forward to each spring.

What does spring mean for you?

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Enjoying the rarest of spring days: warm, dry and calm.

 

I Didn’t Want to Jinx It

Each winter, I implore the gods of weather to take pity on this poor little rock in the North Atlantic, and send us an early spring. A “real” spring, like we see on TV. Blue skies, brilliant sunshine, soft breezes…little birds singing to each other while the first crocuses push their way up from their long winters nap. Most years the weather gods laugh at my pseudo-prayers, and blanket the North East Avalon with thick wet fog and bitter winds, occasionally interspersed with a blizzard or ice storm.

But not this year. I’ve been wanting to write up a post since my first 2016 ride on March 27 (MARCH 27!) but I’m superstitious and was afraid that I would jinx it and not get the bike out again until May.

I might be in the minority here, but during the months that I can’t ride, the areas of my brain usually taken up with motorcycle stuff gets sub-let to all sorts of other interests. But after that first ride of the season, the “lease is up”, so to speak. Now my free time is spent perusing the online motorcycle classifieds, studying Google maps to find out -of-the-way destinations, and reading blogs by riders much more adventurous and interesting than myself. It’s good to be back.

Here’s a few pictures from our *early* rides this year. Looking forward to a long riding season!

 

March 27, 2016. Still looks very much like winter, temps just above freezing. Went for a little ride around the prettier parts of the city. 

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April 2, 2016. First ride on the Vstrom. Temperature was around 14 C (57F), warm enough for highway riding. Lots of bikes out that day! 

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On April 20/21, we were hit with a snow storm that dumped 50cm (over 1.5 feet) on us. Thanks to the warmth of the spring sun, we were riding again a couple of days later!

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klxSnow

 

Becoming a Better Rider…During Winter

At the time of writing this, a blizzard has shuttered most businesses in St. John’s (yay snow day!) and the fierce north easterly wind is making my old house creak. Winter in Newfoundland stirs primeval urges to curl up by a heat source and eat copious amounts of carbohydrates in an effort to produce an insulating fat layer to keep warm. A few centuries of living on the edge of survival in an incredibly harsh climate tends to warp DNA a little, I figure.

If you live in a place where you can ride your motorcycle all year around, you don’t understand the psychology of the “off-season”. Some people call it “PMS” – Parked Motorcycle Syndrome – characterized by irritability, gloomy attitude, looking longingly out the window, and pervasive thoughts of relocation to warmer climes.

But the off-season doesn’t HAVE to be a bad thing. In sports, the off-season is a time to rest and repair, cross-train and work on deficiencies and weaknesses so that you can be better than last year. Some of you might think it odd that I look at riding in the same light as athletic pursuits, but there are more similarities than differences. Riding a motorcycle exacts a physical and mental toll, and if you’re a good rider you’re always trying to figure out ways to be better. Why not use the winter to prepare for riding season? Read the rest of this entry

Yamaha TW200: “Underrated” is an Understatement

2015 was a year of many “firsts” for me. First Regatta, first marathon, and first time doing some real off-roading. I’d been wanting a dual purpose for awhile, and there was never any question of the one I wanted – the Yamaha TW200. I hadn’t ridden one, I didn’t know anyone who owned one and even online reviews were few and far between.

The online articles I was able to find pretty much branded the TW as a “pitbike”; a plaything to strap to the back of an RV and explore a few trails here and there. Sure, it’s good at that. But the TW can be so much more, especially for novice dirt riders. The TW200 actually has two more horsepower than the ubiquitous CBR125, and it’s much more versatile. So why aren’t they more popular?

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