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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
Port Dover, Ontario holds a motorcycle rally each Friday the 13th. Though I’ve never been there, it’s become sort of a tradition with me to go for a ride on these occasions as long as the weather is somewhat civilized.
This past Friday the temperature got to a balmy 5 degrees C (41 F) with overcast skies and a brisk wind off the water…nothing that merino wool and an electric vest couldn’t handle. We bundled up, grabbed a couple of take-out subs and headed for a nearby trail.
I immediately noticed the difference in soil consistency. A few cold nights had made the mud super slick and clumpy, filling the tire treads and flicking up on the fenders, engine and seat. I had to ride even slower than I normally would, and be really careful on off-camber sections of trail.
I bought my lovely little Yamaha TW200 back in April, and took to the trails bedecked completely in street-riding gear. I didn’t want to jump completely into a whole new wardrobe, so it took a little time for me to realize what dirt-specific articles I truly needed. I was wearing my old Harley boots off-road (I couldn’t bear the thought of getting my Elsinores covered in mud), but with the Regatta and a marathon looming in late summer I was ultra-paranoid of busting up a foot or ankle. Boots became the first thing on the shopping list.
One evening in August myself and Mark left the house on the dual-purpose bikes without a clearcut destination in mind. We took a trail leading from Kenmount Road, crossed under the Outer Ring Road and were picking our way over the rocky terrain when Mark spotted something just off the trail. Finding junk in the woods is nothing strange, unfortunately. I could’ve started a blog solely with pictures of garbage that I’ve found in the woods while riding. But this was old junk, and basically in the middle of nowhere. HUH???
We continued along the trail and within minutes found ourselves in what I can only describe as an automotive graveyard. And I don’t mean Sunbirds and Topaz’s either. Many of these cars were from the 1940’s and 50’s.
…and I don’t mean because they’ve been sitting in the back of the fridge for a week too long. What I’m getting at is when you have a dual-purpose bike, even something as mundane as having leftovers for supper can be amazingly fun.
Case in point: yesterday was a beautiful early fall day, feeling more like early September than October. With the days growing steadily shorter, it becomes a bit of a crunch after work hours to get some riding in, especially when you have a pesky habit of eating decent meals at regular hours. The solution: reheat some of Mom’s homemade veggie lasagna in the microwave, then pack in into the tailpack of the bike along with a couple of bottles of water and hit the trails. Read the rest of this entry
I currently own three bikes that serve three distinct purposes. I’m often asked what bike I like the most, and while I can’t really answer that question in a straight-forward way, I have to say that I have the most fun on my Yamaha TW200. If you’ve never ridden a small off-road bike, you may not fully understand where I’m coming from. So here are a half dozen reasons why it makes sense for a motorcycle enthusiast to add a dual-purpose bike to his/her garage. Read the rest of this entry