Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ninja, don't Ninja, KLR, don't KLR...

The KLR? 

  • A big bike with a comfortable driving position for me (a big, six foot+ guy)
  • Can go just about anywhere - handy for a guy who lives in the country (dirt roads)
  • This particular one has only 1200kms on it
  • Lets me practice many different riding environments.
  • as sensible as a bike choice can be

The Ninja?

  • road specialist bike with a wide range of performance (won't outgrow it quickly)
  • an emotional choice that feels fantastic
  • dexterity (ungodly braking and acceleration) would get me out of trouble
  • able to handle all aspects of road driving well (KLR isn't highway/high speed friendly)

Ups and Downs

The KLR is far away in Milton - meaning I'm spending a couple of hours just to go see it, and it might not be as nice as the pictures suggest (which obviously weren't taken recently).  The Ninja is five minutes away in Fergus.

The Ninja has low miles (only 8000 miles), but the KLR has fantastically low miles and is 2 years newer.

The Ninja has been repainted and has been dropped at least once.  The KLR has been dropped too, but they aren't trying to hide it. The Ninja appears to be in good working order, but it's also had a long list of owners in its short life (I'd be #6 or 7?).  This is a Ninja with a shady past.

The KLR owners aren't responding to communications and are far away.  The Ninja owner was immediately available, has been completely upfront with the bike (even pointing out blemishes) and lives around the corner (I taught his cousin English).  He has put half of the 8000 miles on the bike.

The KLR is a bit more expensive, and obvious (nothing hidden).  I don't know what its history is.

The Ninja has charisma... and I've had a habit of wanting to save orphaned machines (my long and storied car history is full of examples).  I sympathize with the Ninja, I want to give it a good home.

The KLR would let me learn on and off road riding, all in one bike, though it wouldn't do either thing as well as a purpose built bike would do - it's a swiss army knife.  The Ninja is a scalpel, very good at what it's designed for, but it isn't going off road.

Any used vehicle has secrets, the KLR might be the lemon, the Ninja the safe buy, but the Ninja's history, paint job (which is well done) and history suggest that it might have been abused.  That just makes me want to save it more.

Either bike would let me get my hands dirty maintaining and modifying it.  Both Ninja and KLR appear to be easy to work on.  They insure for the same amount (it's all about engine size and they are within 2cc of each other - though they couldn't be more different bikes).

If there's a sure choice, it's lost on me.  I'm looking for an emotional relationship with my first bike.  The come hither looks, lovely sound and mysterious history of the American Ninja suggest she's trouble; I just don't know how much trouble I'm looking for.


When the Navy Seals want a bike, they go to the KLR!  The Navy Seals!

The Ninja can do this!!

... and if not that, then at least this:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pan American Motorcycle Diaries 2.0

The original Pan American Motorcycle Diary is still epic, but it might be a bit much, especially if that corporate sponsorship doesn't come through.  A more economical approach follows.

Toronto to Rio for the 2016 Olympic games

The North and Central American ride

  • gearing for 300kms a day
  • minimizing interstate/get there fast without seeing anything roads
The direct route: minimal highway travel in The States

The South American Ride

A much shorter and cheaper ocean voyage, then south through Columbia
 PAMD2.0: from north to west to east in South America
Using the new ferry service from Colon, Panama (on the Carribean side) to Cartegena on the north coast of Columbia.
  • much cheaper than trying to charter a boat down the Pacific side
  • regular, dependable service
  • more than enough space for everyone to go at once
Chilean Atacama Desert & Volcanoes
The South American portion now includes Columbia and an angle through the Atacama desert in Chile. The end result is a more economical, shorter trip (though with more time on the ground in South America) and we still get to add another two countries to the roster.
  • 7000kms in North & Central America (24 days at 300kms/day)
  • A 500km/7 hour ferry trip from Panama to Columbia
  • 8000kms in South America (27 days at 300kms/day)
Even if we reduce the South American mileage to 200kms/day, we're still only looking at 40 days.

With the reduction in time and cost, we could easily leave mid-May and arrive without rushing (including days off and/or diversions) at the beginning of August.

May 17th, 2016 departure from Southern Ontario.

North & Central America: 7000kms

CANADA: 325kms to U.S. border ~ 1 day, no nights
USA: 2800kms to the Mexican border ~ 10 days, 10 nights
MEXICO: 1800kms to Guatamala ~ 7 days, 7 nights
GUATAMALA: 300kms to El Salvador ~ 2 days, 2 nights
EL SALVADOR: 328kms to Honduras ~ 2 days, 2 nights
HONDURAS: 150kms to Nicaragua ~ 2 days, 2 nights
NICARAGUA: 360kms to Costa Rica ~ 2 days, 2 nights
COSTA RICA: 560kms to Panama ~ 3 days, 3 nights
PANAMA: 581kms to Colon (ferry) ~ 4 days, 4 nights

North America:   10 nights
Central America:  22 nights

South America: 9500kms

COLUMBIA: to Ecuadoran border 1550kms ~ 6 days, 6 nights
ECUADOR: to Peruvian border 931kms ~ 3 days, 3 nights
PERU: to Chilean border 300kms ~ 2 days, 2 nights
CHILE: to Bolivian border 288kms ~ 2 days, 2 nights
BOLIVIA: to Brazilian border 1566kms ~ 6 days, 6 nights
BRAZIL: 1866kms ~ 7 days, 7 nights

South America: 26 nights

Basic budget 

  • Gas per day ~ $30 avg (higher in expensive countries, lower in cheaper countries)
  • lodging per day ~ $60 avg each (shared accommodation)
  • food per day ~ $40 avg (lower/higher)
  • ~ $130/day/person
  • 60 day trip = $7800
Had I the means, I'd offer ten places and budget $10,000 per person and do the trip from May 17, 2016 to August 1st, 2016. The seats would be filled by people willing to document the experience using various forms of media from their own distinct perspective.  I'd want people of various backgrounds who would all bring their own insights into the experience of riding through such a diverse range of cultures and climates.  I'd then take the results and build a travel documentary in multiple media about the experience.

The Pan American Motorcycle Diaries

A two month odyssey along the spine of the Americas.  Out of the Great Lakes basin, across the Mississippi and the Mid-West, through South Western U.S. desert, along the Mexican coast before crossing the back of Mayan Mexico and tracing the Pacific coast of Central America all the way to the Panama Canal. Recrossing to the Caribbean side of Panama, we take a ferry service to Cartegena and trek south through Columbia into Ecuador. Following through the Andes and bouncing off the South Pacific shoreline, we enter Peru and after heading inland to Machu Picchu we skirt Lake Titicaca (I just wanted to say skirt Titicaca) and head south into the Chilean Atacama desert.  Crossing volcanic Chilean Andes we enter Bolivia and finally cross the back of the Andes into the Amazon basin.  The rest of the trip skirts Brazilian jungle on the way to Rio on the South Atlantic coast.

60 days, 15 countries, two continents, 16,500kms!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Burned Clean

I'm feeling like I'm finally putting myself back together, I've been taking action, trying to steer myself again.  The biggest recent change was getting my M1 motorcycle license.

I've wanted to get a bike since I was old enough to drive, but my parents did backflips to put me in a car instead (probably wise at the time).  Now that I'm older and wiser, I'm looking for something other than just thrills from riding a motorcycle.

What feels like a lifetime ago, I was living in Japan.  A colleague and I came across a student who was into racing carts.  He invited us out and it became a regular event.  I'd always had an interest in motorsports and fancied myself a decent driver, it was nice to have the lap times prove it.

One of the most enjoyable side effects of ten tenths driving in a tiny shifter cart doing almost 100km/hr into a left hander was how focused your mind is.  You are taking in all sorts of sensory inputs, your adrenaline is ticking, you can feel the tires on the edge of grip, the wind is thundering past your helmet, the engine is screaming behind you, and you are no where else but in that seat.  You feel burned clean of any worries, plans, random thoughts or distractions.  You feel like you're dancing with the machine under you, it becomes an extension of yourself.  It's a wonderful feeling and I have never felt so exhausted and relaxed as I did after a day at Kiowa, deep in the mountains, tearing around that track.

I'm hoping that I can find that same quietness of mind on a motorbike.  The personal space and focus needed will be therapeutic.  The chance to disappear into my senses, to be entirely with the moment... the best kind of meditation.

There is no magic pill, except sometimes

It's nice to put the panic attacks behind me.  I've been on a serotonin enhancer for a few weeks now and feel like I can finally manage the last year without bursting into tears at inappropriate times.

One of the benefits of not feeling like I'm at the constant beck and call of a flight or fight response is seeing things with some perspective.  Instead of being hit in the face by branches, I'm able to see the forest as a whole.  That perspective does a lot to ease anxiety.  It also helps in seeing where you are and where you want to go.  A sense of having the power to self direct instead of feeling the victim tossed about in an emotional storm is probably the clearest sign of recovery for me.

With anger and frustration being less central in my thinking, I tend to an abiding sadness when I think of Mum, but that extra serotonin uptake seems to blunt the emotional edge, so I don't fall into a pit when I feel that sadness.  Being able to look at it and then look away really helps.

I wouldn't want to stay on this stuff forever.  The hot flashes aren't any fun at all and emotionality seems to be the engine that drives libido; it'd be nice to have that back.  On the upside, I'm not having any digestive problems with it.

As a means of handling an overwhelming emotional crisis, I'd have to say that this particular pill has really helped.  Once I've got a handle on the situation, it'll be nice to put the crutches down again though.

Dream Garage (in progress)

Daily drivers:

Winter/bad weather car:

Nissan Juke AWD

in metallic blue, with some go faster bits to make it feel like a rally car.  With a good set of snows it'd even get us into the cottage in March!

Summer Blaster:

Morgan 3

Custom blue with RAF decals, some bullet holes and one wheel drive!

The go-everwhere bike (about to be my first bike):

Kawasaki KLR650

a big bike that goes anywhere...

The next level bike:

Triumph Street Triple

a boutique bike that will hug the road and offer a naked bike experience with the all the latest technology.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Top Gear Bolivia Special

I really enjoy the Top Gear Specials.  The Bolivia one is one of my favourites   Last time I watched it I tried to map where they were going as they went...

My best guess at the route they took through Bolivia into Chile... GOOGLE MAP HERE.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bike Update

I was all about the Honda NC700x in the last post, but after a bit more research, I'm now thinking more along the lines of a Kawasaki KLR650...
The everyman's all purpose bike, it'll do 120km/h all day on the highway, or take on the roughest trails.  It also happens to be two thousand dollars cheaper than the Honda and has a very tall saddle that happens to fit me perfectly.

People have take their KLRs around the world.  It would be an ideal contender for our Pan American Motorcycle diaries trip.

Since I live in the country anyway, it would be nice to have a bike that won't shy away from dirt roads, and our resident bike Jedi said there is an off-road course up in Blue Mountain that the KLR would take on with a big smile on its face.

I thought it would feel insubstantial, but the KLR is a big bike with a wide front end that protects the rider even at speed.  It has a nice, upright riding position as well.

As a true all purpose bike it would always have a unique place in my bike collection, being a capable off roader means regardless of what road bike I have, the KLR would always offer a special skill set.

Speaking of road bikes, I've been looking at Triumphs with interest.  As a former Spitfire owner, I'm a fan of the marquee, and it would be nice to pick up one of these English beasts.  The Triumph Street Triple looks a fantastic naked bike.
More than I could handle as a beginner, but something to look forward to as I get my bearings on a bike.