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Friday, 24 March 2017

Trippin' to the Top of the South - pt 2

After the time spent mooching around in Nelson described in part 1, it was time to head towards Golden Bay.  A quick stop in Mapua for lunch which was once a sleepy village but has transformed itself with nice cafes and shops with an arty theme.  We were quite taken with the Mapua ferry which runs between the village and nearby Rabbit Island.  More like box than boat.

Mapua ferry dropping schoolkids off in front of the local houses

To get to Golden Bay by road, one has to negotiate the Takaka Hill.  Nirvana on a bike but hard work in an SUV and tough on those with a queasy stomach.  Approximately 35 km of continuous twisties rising to around 800 metres above sea level.  With the Abel Tasman National Park mountains on one side of the valley and the Kahurangi National Park mountains on the other, the descent towards Takaka is breathtaking.

The descent towards Takaka

Kahurangi National Park mountains

The area is known for its alternative lifestyle community and a strong focus on the arts.  Dreadlocks are common, as is hippy type clothing.  Many Germans make a pilgrimage here, probably due to a strong German presence which began in the 1800's to avoid Lutheran persecution in their homeland.  

We were heading for the small beach settlement of Pohara.  Jennie and I were last there in 2001 and we had booked in at a very special place we stayed at back then - Sans Souci Inn . Owners Vera and Reto Balzer built it using adobe/straw construction, grass-covered roofs and other ecological features, including a communal bathroom and composting toilets!  The latter features are really no big deal and add to the utter charm of the place.  It only has 7 bedrooms so there's a very strong personal touch. They even have a heritage orchard of non-hybridised fruit and the guests may help themselves. Quirky and utterly charming - we loved it to bits the first time and nothing has changed. Very glad we made a return visit!

Schist-covered walkways to the rooms

Jennie chilling at our adobe unit - grapes handily in reach!

Gorgeous dining room

Communal bathroom with composting toilets!

Grass roofs and solar water heating panels

The following day, we went exploring.  Takaka is a delight and as it was market day, it was a good opportunity to take in the sights.

Wall mural - says it all really!

One of the many colourful eateries catering for all tastes

Coffee and artisan bread anyone?

Hippy caravan pizzeria

Fresh Kombucha sold here

Hippy chic?

Local 4x4 for fording rivers - not your city slicker type!

Pohara area - utter tranquility

Arty shot from the Abel Tasman memorial - seems to be suspended in the air!

Tata beach area - virtually deserted

Rustic holiday home - Pohara inlet

Maori entranceway to the Abel Tasman track - one of NZ's nine Great Walks

Australasian Harrier Hawk looking for prey

3-masted schooner undergoing maintenance in the Pohara marina 

Sometimes, being at the bottom of the world in NZ seems a long way from all the action and other cultures but with all the current unrest in the world, there's a lot to be thankful for its isolation. Similarly, a country roughly the size of the UK but with only 4.5 million people means that outside the big cities, there's room to breathe and that's what makes it a motorcycling paradise.  The next post covers our visit to a very special place!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Trippin' to the Top of the South - pt 1

Top of the South Island, NZ

Every year, we meet up with friends Mike and Georgina and go exploring, mainly road trips.  It has been a few years since any of us has spent any time at the top of the south island and in the case of Jennie and me, it was 2001 since we last visited the Golden Bay area! We flew to Nelson from Auckland, picked up a rental SUV and collected our friends from Wellington when they flew in a few hours later.

Before heading north west to Golden Bay, we all wanted to visit the world-class World of Wearable Arts (WOW) and automotive museum in Nelson. WOW is a spectacular annual fashion show of wearable arts held in Wellington, but which has its roots in Nelson where some of the past entries from around the world are on show.  The weight of some of the costumes must challenge the models on the catwalk!  It certainly didn't disappoint.  The level of detail on all the costumes was unbelievable.

Jennie and Georgina outside WOW entrance with a Plymouth Prowler

Some of the WOW exhibits

Errr... a bit of a weight to model on the catwalk!

Spectacular colours

Great use of black walls and mirrors

Stunning detail

A tad disturbing.....

Just brilliant!

The automotive side of the museum was just as spectacular with great care taken over the presentation of a lot of exhibits. There was a huge mix of vehicles from everyday family cars to absolute exotica.  Take the Cord roadster shown below as an example of being superbly displayed:

Magnificent setting

1955 BMW Isetta with a 250cc single engine

A pink Cadillac - thanks Mr Springsteen! 

Wolseley 6/110 - this is what Jennie and I did our courting (quaint word) in!!

1960's Austin Healey 3000 - still looks magnificent

I want one!!!!

Yes indeed, Mr Powers!

Arty-farty shot of the front of a 1915 Stutz Bearcat racer

Pure sex or what????

Ultimate trans-continental luxury - Maybach saloon

There was only a small display of bikes but a couple of them were quite rare (and ill-fated!).  The first was the Ducati-powered Bimota Tesi from the early 1990's.  It had centre hub steering and from memory, only 150-odd were ever built.

Ducati Tesi front end - not the prettiest front end ever

Another Bimota on display was the Bimota V-Due  V4 500 cc 2 stroke.  Released in 1997, rare as hen's teeth and it was also the bike which sunk Bimota.  A brilliant concept but a combination of both mechanical and electrical problems, selling price and EPA emission laws largely reduced them to static exhibits.  However, aftermarket upgrades are available which have apparently fixed the problems for the handful of loyal owners who didn't pass them on at the first opportunity to some wealthy sucker!

The ill-fated Bimota V-Due

A famous racing name and early road bike version

After a few well-spent hours of drooling down our shirts, it was time to get on the road and travel the 2 hours over the Takaka Hill to Golden Bay for the next part of our adventure.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Metzler Roadtec 01's - a progress report

Regular readers will remember my long-term relationship with Michelin PR3's and then its successor, the PR4 on both my Street Triple and Suzuki GSX-S 1000.  There's no such thing as the perfect tyre as fitness for purpose, road and weather conditions, all up bike weight, suspension quality and a host of other factors have a bearing on overall suitability.  However, both the 3's and 4's were ideal for my use. No commuting, mostly twisty roads at a reasonably brisk pace in all weathers.

Rear tyre life of both the 3's and 4's on the Street Triple was around 15000 km although both front and rear tyres were always changed at the same time.  Whilst this life was most acceptable, Michelin's claim for an additional 20% life from the PR4 seems to be a Marketing Dept figure plucked out of the air over Friday night drinkies.  To all intents and purposes, they were identical for a higher purchase price.  On the GSX-S 1000, a PR4 replaced the OEM Dunlop D214 pure sport tyre which was awful. Massive grip in the dry but were lethal in the wet when you couldn't get heat into them.  The rear was completely worn out at 3700 km. Ordinarily, I would have been really disappointed at the short life but was simply relieved that the chances of going down on my arse had been reduced.  The PR4 rear returned just over 12000 km which was pretty satisfactory given that most rides were on the sporty side of things, mentoring with IAM.  In terms of grip, both Michelins were excellent in the dry and simply outstanding in wet conditions.  They even survived a trackday without tearing themselves to bits.  The only thing I noticed with the 4 compared with the 3 was that the steering felt a little less vague/spongy when the front end was loaded up under deceleration, combined with changing line.  It's only a guess, but wondered whether the wider sipe spacing on the 4 reduced the amount of tread block movement under load.  In any event, both the Michelins were great tyres. The full PR4 review is HERE .

I would have been perfectly happy to fit another set of PR4's but the Metzler Roadtec 01 sport touring tyre had only been released a few months earlier and had received some great early reviews.  The decision was made to try a set as the price was within a few bucks of the Michelins. As with the PR4's, I went for the 55 profile compared with 50 on the OEM Dunlop to get a faster rate of turn-in.
The photos immediately below are the Metzlers with less than 200 km on them.

Front and rear Roadtec 01's at 200 km from new

On the first ride of any new tyre, they feel super-sensitive compared with the old ones so it was a wee while until it was possible to make some reasonable comparisons. In terms of the rate of turn-in when cornering, they feel fairly similar to the PR4.  However, the front end definitely feels a little more precise when changing line.  Perhaps the tread pattern and absence of sipes across the entire tyre width compared with the PR's helps in this respect.  Dry weather grip is excellent.  In the wet, they're at least as good as the PR4 and my riding talent runs out long before the tyres run out of grip, even without the Suzuki's traction control intervening.

The 01's have now covered 5200 km of reasonably brisk riding.  As can be seen in the photo below, there is still a lot of tread on the rear hoop and it seems reasonable to expect a life of 10,000 km or above which is fine. Equally importantly, it has retained its shape really well. That may be partially due to little or no commuting but it's good to see

Rear Metzler Roadtec 01 at 5200 km - minimal flattening

Similarly, the front hoop has plenty of tread.  As you may be able to notice in the photo below at the lowest part of the tyre, there is a slight flattening on the outer part of the tread.  I put this down to the absence of straight roads in the areas I inhabit, coupled with a fair degree of countersteering in the tighter stuff.  However, it's not yet significantly affected the profile which remains good.

Front Metzler Roadtec 01 at 5200 km

Sooooo... those are my thoughts about the Roadtec 01's at somewhere near the halfway stage of their life.  Excellent tyres in both wet and dry conditions with perhaps slightly sharper steering than the PR4's in some circumstances.  Obviously. tyre life will have a bearing on the final judgement but so far so good!

One other observation is wear across the tyre.  Referring to the PR4 end of life review mentioned above, there was a noticable "chicken strip" about 15mm in from the rear tyre edge, with just light scuffing out towards the edge. On the Metzler, the wear is pretty much right out to the edge.  On the front PR4, the "chicken strip" is about 10 mm from the edge with minimal additional light scuffing.  On the 01 front, the wear is practically right out to the edge, which I haven't noticed with any previous tyres. Both the Michelins and Metzlers are 55 profile (more crowned than the OEM 50's). It's unlikely that my riding has changed and the roads I travel on are much the same.  It's only speculation but perhaps it's the tyre carcass technology designed to give a bigger footprint when leaned over.  Interesting..... at least to this retired engineer who really needs to get a life!