Meanderings of a motorcycle Rambler. If you are a cruiser, scrambler, street, tour or adventure bike rider, photographs, stories and reviews here for you.
Meanderings of a motorcycle Rambler. If you are a cruiser, scrambler, street, tour or adventure bike rider, photographs, stories and reviews here for you.
93rd Laconia Bike week. A tour of Boston. Then pick up my bike at MOMs in Foxboro and drive up to Ossipee Lake near Laconia.
Last year I visited my friend Matt who lives near Boston so we could travel up to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire. Matt and Cheryl invited me to a tour of Boston before we set off on our motorcycle trip to Laconia, and I was happy to see a few of the sights and attractions. We visited Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market area which is a busy down-town historic indoor market that is particularly well known for food. I sampled a lobster roll from Ned Devine’s Irish pub which is at the back entrance to the market which was great. We did the Charles River by Duck Boat, which are derived from World War 2 amphibious landing vehicles. The tour is very popular, mainly because the “conDUCKtors” that drive and pilot these vehicles, or vessels, give a comic running commentary while they point out the interesting attractions in the city. Our guy was Canadian, known as Tim Burr (as in when somebody shouts: TIIMMBEER, when felling a tree), and his gag is that he fell into the Charles River and floated down from Canada to Boston where someone on a DUCK boat pulled him out of the water, and he has been working the DUCK boats ever since. The boats are a great additional perspective from which to see the city.
It was time to take a look at the bike I was taking up to Laconia. I was highly impressed when I got to MOMS Motorcycles in Foxboro. This is a Polaris dealer through and through, and the first thing that impresses you is that there is a lot going on here. The parking lot is full of motorcycles, cars and people. As you walk into the shop you see new Indian motorcycles. A new Roadmaster with what I think is the most impressive paint job on the market was right next to the door. MOMS Foxboro are Eagle Rider agents, and I soon discovered that my bike that was held for me was the last bike available. The bike was a full dress Harley Davidson Electra Glide (FLHTK) from 2013 with a 103 cubic inch engine (1670cc), in an attractive black and silver livery. It weighed in at 857 lbs (398 kgs) which is massive compared to what I am used to. This model has ABS, cruise control, a smart security system, an attractive two-tone paint scheme, the tour-pack and a luggage rack, and heated hand grips. I was looking forward to getting out on the road and seeing how I and this big girl were going to get along.
Matt and I set off on our road-trip to Laconia. It’s a couple of hours trip on I-95 or I-495 up to The White Mountain Range where I-93 becomes the most important highway. I have to admit that I was a little worried about how I would get on riding the Harley. I had tried Harleys a couple of years ago and while friends had told me about how comfortable these big cruisers are, I had had a different experience. I had found it hard to get comfortable riding cruiser-style bikes but it didn’t take long for me to realise that I was going to have no problem on this trip. Matt stopped after a short time in a gas station and I was grateful that I wasn’t the first one to start bemoaning the onset of old age, arthritis, and old injuries. Furthermore, I discovered that the older Harley that Matt was riding, a Heritage Softail, didn’t have a sixth gear and didn’t have electronic ignition so we were going to have very regular refuelling stops / rests. Matt’s bike only had soft bags and the Electra Glide I was riding had the full tour pack with hard cases and a massive top box.
Matt and I were born the same year, long before 6th gears, electronic ignition, World Wide Web or mobile/cell phones were known to the world. So to apportion all the responsibility for sore hips and backs on the bikes would be unfair. At least we could laugh about our age and injury related issues, which we did quite regularly on the trip. When we got back on the Interstate I concentrated on getting comfortable and getting used to this big girl. It takes a bit of getting used to a bike that heavy and even when you are getting it upright from the side-stand you really feel it. The front of the bike seemed to carry a lot of the weight and that’s no surprise when you take into consideration what’s going on up there. There is a very large fairing which shelters the rider and a massive amount of equipment. There is a radio and large speakers housed in the fairing and lots of clocks and a considerable amount of chrome. It wasn’t long before I started referring to it as the Lincoln Town Car because of it’s size and weight.
On one of our stops for fuel Matt announced that he would like to visit a property belonging to a friend of his that was being renovated. We turned off up mountain roads and started searching for some familiar landmarks so Matt could navigate to the house. Straight up steep inclines with high trees on both sides with the finest switchbacks, hairpins, loose surface and subsidence known to man. Matt is an avid motocross man and if we had the motocross bikes I had seen in his garage this would be a great place to motorcycle. Let me tell you it was worth it. Matt’s friend’s property was on a high crest with a view to die for. In the middle of the White Mountain Range, there was a mountain peak in every direction you looked. The extension on the house was three stories, with picture windows facing in every direction, and a mountain to look at from each one. Over the next few days I heard about so many mountains that I can’t remember for sure which mountains I was looking at from the house. Mount Washington for sure, but there were many more. This whole area is known for it’s views and famous worldwide for fabulous scenery and the mountains and mountain highways and lakes. These are what make New England synonymous with Autumn beauty and winter holidays as well as summer visitors. It’s a backpacker, snowboarder and skier’s paradise in the winter and the summer visitors include mountaineers, hikers, water sports enthusiasts as well as a huge influx of motorcyclists for Laconia Bike Week. It was late evening when we reached the shores of Ossipee Lake and the gorgeous cottage we were going to stay in while visiting Laconia.
A look back on a fantastic bike trip to Laconia Bike Week 2016.
This year my big bike trip will involve taking the ferry from Ireland to Cherbourg in France and travelling through France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Austria. Nothing is set in stone and I generally don’t book accommodation until the day I need it so I can ramble wherever I fancy. I have to admit though, I am thinking back to the great trip I had to Laconia Bike Week in 2016. I won’t be there this year for the 94th bike week. Last year my friend Matt from Blackstone, Massachusetts, invited me to go over to his home so we could ride up to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire. 2016 was the 93rd year of this iconic festival of biking. It’s the oldest national motorcycle rally in the U.S. It began when a group of less than 200 motorcycling enthusiasts toured the lake and mountain region in New Hampshire in 1916. It has evolved over time into an institution of motorcycling that attracts hundreds of thousands every year. I booked the flight to Boston and when I landed in Logan airport, Matt and his two beautiful daughters, Marissa and Hannah, were there to pick me up.
On the way from the airport to Blackstone we stopped near Gillette stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots. It was Thursday night and every second Thursday night there is a “cruise night”, organised by Mass Cruisers at Patriot Place, a shopping Mall, adjacent to the stadium. Wow! Thousands of beautiful examples of American metal. A guy we spoke to told us that on a good night there could be well in excess of two thousand cars there. Every era of car manufacturing in America, back to the 1930s was on display and we couldn’t get enough of it.
When we arrived at the family home, I met Matt’s wife Cheryl, who was a gracious host for a beautiful dinner. The family’s home is a fabulous house set in a lovely residential, wooded area on the outskirts of Blackstone. The house is very much in keeping with the setting, as it is made of stone and cedar wood. In the garage there were four motorbikes and a 1968 Camaro. One of Matt’s project cars. Two motorcross bikes and two Harleys’ of an older era. The absolute star of the show was Matt’s pride and joy, a 1977 Harley Davidson, customised to give it the appearance of being from an even older era. Matt’s priority was to have sleek lines and perfect paintwork and he certainly has achieved that in this bike. It is a thing of beauty. Cheryl told me stories of the many long journeys they travelled on this bike when they were together first. It is possible to bolt on a seat over the back mudguard on the bike but it must have been hell to travel on for any distance. Both Matt and Cheryl agree that they need a modern tourer to get back into the bike adventures they used to have before house, mortgage, responsibility and their much loved girls entered the frame. I was glad to have met Matt again and to be introduced to his beautiful family. I was also glad to head upstairs and sleep. I was looking forward to the next few days. A trip to Boston to experience the city and a trip to MOMs Motorcycles in Foxboro also, to see the bike I would have for the road trip to Laconia.
Spring has come but I am not able to get out on my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure.
It’s spring here in Ireland all of a sudden. You’re wondering why I am so surprised. Well, the seasons here only barely tip their hat at the date or time of the year. You can get full blown winter in June and fabulous sunshine in December. In this instance though, all the signs are there. Blue skies and lambs sunning themselves in the green fields. Ah, Spring is in the air and it’s bloody useless to me. I had surgery last week and I have to take it easy. No lifting or straining for a while. So that means no rambles on the motorcycle. My nearest and dearest don’t go for my argument that the motorcycle does all the work and I just sit there. The arguments are “you’ll burst the stitches and have to go through it all again”. Wouldn’t you agree it’s so unfair to apply logic in an argument. How can I counter it? In the meantime the Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc that I bought from AMI in Gorey, for my own adventures is lying idle in the basement. No adventure motorcycling for me at the moment.
Sunshine and warmth on your back when you go outside. Normally it is what I am really looking forward to. I don’t allow winter to stop my biking but good weather is a pleasure. Today is warm, but not as warm as the weather station on the counter in our kitchen would have you believe. It’s not 35 degrees Celsius, even inside, but rather the warm sunlight is streaming in on the counter warming it up to give that high reading. It’s showing a 15 degrees Celsius outside temperature, and I would say that is fairly bang on, judging by the comfortable and relaxed demeanour of the lambs and their mums in my neighbour Bob’s field, as you can see in the photo. So, just as I am sitting here at the kitchen table, writing my post and contemplating my woes, I hear the distinctive sound of a Milwaukee V-twin burbling towards me on the road outside. I catch a glimpse of a beautiful sky blue Harley cruising by on our little road. “Little road” because there can’t be much more than a dozen houses up here on our hill. It can only be my neighbour who only just traded up to a black and red Harley last year, with this year’s new model, taking advantage of the nice sunshine today. Insult to injury comes to mind. Not that I begrudge him his new bike. Best of luck with it. Just that some of us are in here writing posts when we should be out riding…
So Suzie is just sitting in the basement, apparently oblivious to the arrival of Spring and doesn’t appear to be upset at all. And there was I thinking Suzie and I were going to be natural allies in this debate. Sitting there nonchalantly as if nothing was wrong. I even opened the basement door so the sun would warm her up a little. Nothing. No reaction what so ever. Just sitting there benignly as if there wasn’t a care in the world. I am just going to have to suck it up, I’m afraid and wait until I get the chance to go on fresh rambles in the near future. I have already set the wheels in motion in relation to planning a very big ramble that involves a ferry from Rosslare in the South-east corner of Ireland, and quite a few border crossings. Mostly the best kind. The ones with no customs posts or passport controls. There will be mountain roads and local roads and as much as is possible, little in the way of motorway or highway riding. More about that in future posts though. For now I have to content myself in scheming and crafting a plan to get out on the road with Suzie before Spring descends, in good old-fashioned Irish weather form, into dismal winter weather again. You know, the kind that might even last a whole day…
A scoot to Kilkenny, icy blast to Mount Leinster and a run to a bike show in Dublin before a date with a man with a scalpel.
I had a date with a scalpel wielding medic yesterday so, knowing there was going to be a period that I would not be able to take Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure out to play, I took the opportunity to get out last week. My first destination on Thursday was Gorey Business Park in Wexford, the South East of Ireland, to the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland). David had a few spare tickets for customers for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter Show, in the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) Showgrounds, starting the next day, Friday. He kindly gave me my ticket and I had a coffee and a browse through the motorcycles on offer in the AMI shop, and as usual there were many fabulous examples to ogle. After a chat with Derek, the Patriarch of the Ryanhart motorcycle dynasty, I headed off again on Suzie to Kilkenny.
One of my favourite short rides is to Kilkenny and a quick visit to Sullivan’s brewery Tap-rooom. I wrote about it in an earlier post about medieval Kilkenny (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-K2) and my feelings on their beer have been vindicated. There is a medal hanging on the beer taps indicating that the experts at the recent beer judging in the Alltech Dublin Craft Brews and Food Fair event, rated it very highly too. I ran into Ian, their Master Brewer while I was parking the V-Strom in the car-park at the rear of the premises. He is also an avid motorcyclist and we swapped a few war stories on our biking adventures abroad before I went in to order my pint of Sullivan’s Maltings Red Ale and Tikka Chicken Pizza. A pint and a pizza for 12 euros is good value in my book and the chef busied himself with their own wood-fired pizza oven making me a gorgeous crispy based offering. Ellen the bartender was kind enough to advise me to move Suzie into the covered area that is the walkway into the Tap-room to prevent it getting too wet. Which I gladly did because the rain was now teeming down. I had a browse in their excellent wine and liquor shop at 15 John Street, before heading out on Suzie in the rain again.
A quick scoot to Borris, a small town in the general direction of home and I made the decision to go over Mount Leinster which had a little snow on it when I looked out my front door in the morning but I didn’t think that was going to be a problem. The rain was coming in heavy intermittent bursts but it wasn’t really an issue either. I made it up to the Nine Stones which is the viewing area at the bottom of the road to the Mount Leinster TV Transmitter mast or antenna, and took a snap with my phone showing a wet and misty County Carlow. I noticed that the gate to the TV mast road was open, which it almost never is, but knowing that the road is really only for RTE TV (national television broadcaster) personnel I wouldn’t be going up there. After all, it’s probably not allowed. And anyway there could still be ice and snow and the usual gale force wind so it would be dangerous up there. So, of course I set off up the road to the mast knowing there were a couple of places I could turn so as not to get to the icy, snowy and blowy bit. Which I duly ignored and got the full blast of the icy gale-force wind I was expecting when I rounded the last bend before the mast compound. Even so, it was hard to battle the wind, but at this stage you are totally committed, no turning back, with a nice covering of ice on the very steep narrow road and snow on the banks. The wind kind of picked me up and deposited me in the middle of the compound, wheels and boots sliding gracefully along in our version of “Dancing on Ice”. I think the judges would have been impressed. I was swiftly reminded why the RTE four-wheel drive vehicles have a little shelter built there to protect them from the large lumps of ice that fall off the mast and could easily damage a vehicle. It’s not a pleasant feeling thumping off a helmet either. I killed the motor briefly, and hanging on to the bike with my knees, I managed to retrieve my phone for another quick snap before the old adage: “discretion is the better part of valour” kicked in and I got out of there, rather gingerly.
The next day, Friday saw me heading off in nasty sideways rain. Real rain. If you get straight down rain in Ireland it’s not considered real rain. Straight down rain brings the comment “it’s a grand soft day” instead of a hard day with proper sideways rain. Straight down rain is kind of summer rain, but don’t let that fool you because summer is a moveable feast in Ireland that doesn’t follow any real seasonal occurrences or dates. I rode up to the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter show and luckily found a nice sheltered place to get the bike out of the nasty weather. The show itself was excellent. The AMI & Overlanders, Touratech Stand was one of the highlights and their customised black Africa Twin was a sight to behold. It’s theirs for the year for tours and demo rides and I hope I am back fully fit in time to get a jaunt on it before it goes on a holiday abroad. I am not sure how to give you an idea of the scale of this event because it was way bigger than I imagined it was going to be. All the major manufacturers of bikes and suppliers of clothing and protective gear as well as many other organisations were present. There were lots of exhibitions too, custom bikes, vintage bikes and the myriad prizes, cups and medals, as well as the leathers of a certain Mr. Joey Dunlop. A Northern Ireland motorcycle legend, Joey Dunlop was voted the second greatest motorcycle icon ever by Motorcycle News, and many would argue should be considered number one. Some living legends were called to the stage in the Main Hall and gave interesting accounts of their racing experiences too. Of course there was food and drink stands and at times when the rain eased off a little it was possible to go outside and see the stunt riders performing their skills in a fenced off paddock. I imagine it is more usual to see four legged steeds being lead around there because the RDS is most famous for equestrian events. I could have stayed ogling the bike beauties for days. All the best adventure bikes from Honda, Yamaha and many more as well as fabulous cruisers from Indian and BMW. Ducati, Yamaha, Harley, Suzuki, Triumph, Husqavarna, Royal Enfield and many more were also showing their fabulous wares. As well as the beautiful vintage Indian in the featured image, the modern “behemoth” Indian Roadmaster was spectacular, but all the manufacturers did themselves proud. Kudos to Carole Nash for a fine spectacle. And that was only Friday with two more days to go in what had to have been a brilliant weekend for all the motorcycle enthusiasts who attended over the weekend.
I met Colin, an old school friend, also a big bike fan, and we nattered away for about an hour and then it was time to gear up and head back out into the heavy traffic and sideways rain. It was a rotten dark, wet evening heading down the M11 on Suzie but it was worth it. Now lying convalescing in my sick bed (read: being spoiled rotten with beverages and tasty bits) I know I will again be suffering some withdrawal symptoms (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-ST) and worse than the last time, because this time I have a bike in the basement but am just not allowed to use it for a few weeks, or maybe a week, or maybe… We’ll see.
Getting in some trips on the new V-Strom 1000. Laurie loves the comfort…
My wife Laurie was not a fan of the seat on my Yamaha Fazer. It was a reliable bike and brought me on some long trips and back, safely without and issues, breakdowns or fuss. When I decided to change, Laurie’s comfort was one of the highest priorities, and the V-Strom Adventure I got from the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcyles of Ireland) to test ride, came first in her rating. It got an immediate thumbs up with a special reference to how comfortable the seat was. So, we picked the Suzuki V-Strom up, all shiny and new, in Gorey Business Park in the first week of January. To say the least, she is loving it. I think the number of miles we covered on it together has probably already exceeded the number covered on the Fazer.
Last weekend we did some nice miles, heading to Duncannon beach in Wexford, in the South East corner of Ireland. It’s a lovely beach with great views of the Hook Pennisula and the Waterford coastline. It’s one of Laurie’s favourites, having spent all her childhood summers there. Duncannon has some great pubs and restaurants and we stopped on the beach, which is firm enough to drive on. The “Ta-Dah” moment in the featured photo is when Laurie found a suitable piece of driftwood to put under the side-stand so we could park up for a little while. We headed for the Hook which is another of our favourite stops. Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. After a visit to the Lighthouse restaurant we were off again. Waterford City and The Copper Coast was next on our agenda.
We got new Scott jackets and pants along with Schubert helmets that are very comfortable and we are very happy with them. I am particularly happy with the communication system because I can’t hear a word she says. Probably down to my bad hearing. Perfect.
It’s important to stay safe when your out on your motorcycle. This is what I wear.
Someone asked me recently how I manage the cold weather on my bike. I think it was in response to a post I wrote where I mentioned that when I started out in the morning it was minus 2 degrees Celsius, which is fairly nippy. I think the reader comes from a warmer climate than ours here in Ireland and couldn’t contemplate getting on a motorcycle in that kind of temperature. So my advice is, just move somewhere warmer. I wish it could be so! For now I’m stuck here where, although it hasn’t been a cold winter by any means, we have had some frost and temperatures down at minus 4 and a little lower in some places. That’s not that cold, and I’m sure if your from a country with a much colder climate you are wondering what the fuss is. The reason I think it’s important to talk about temperature is that it’s my opinion that if you get too cold, you are a danger to yourself and others when your out on a motorbike. When you start to feel numb it’s an indicator that things aren’t right and before long your muscles start to become weak and you can even start to become sleepy or drowsy, which is never to be recommended, particularly on a motorcycle.
The fact is, I never knew how cold it was on my last bike, but the V-Strom has a digital air temperature read out, as you can see in the picture above. Up to now if the fields were white with frost when I looked out, well then I knew it was frosty and I put on an extra layer. I am going to go in to detail and explain exactly what I wear. My preference is a base layer, my wife and I have merino wool long thermals and they are very good, but there are plenty of sports base layers that are great too. A t-shirt comes next or in very cold weather I would then put on a light fleece. Two pairs of merino wool socks, one of which is long, goes on next, and the long ones tuck nicely over the legs of the base layer. We both recently purchased ultra light feather and down jackets and they are brilliant. They roll up into tiny stuff pouches but are warm enough to wear as outer layers when your out and about walking, except in really cold weather. I am wearing one and holding another in the picture to show just how small they can pack and it’s amazing just how much warmth they create under your bike jacket.
We got new Scott suits when I bought the new bike and though we haven’t used the new gear much yet it’s already clear how snug and warm they are. Double layered and Gore-tex lined. We are very used to rain in Ireland though, and I always pack a waterproof jacket and pants, because I have experienced “waterproof” clothing before. My wettest experience in years was a trip from Northern France, through Belgium and all the way up through the Netherlands to The Hague, to stay with my good friends Damir and Alisa. Hard to believe that an Irishman had his worst wetting in another country. I have some good heavy duty thermal gloves but the Hot Grips on the V-Strom mean that my hands are unlikely to be a problem. I have a few pairs of boots for use on the bike but my favourite ones are the Daytona Traveller boots that are warm and waterproof. My feet have never been wet and the wet trip to The Hague there was barely a drop even got past the zips into the first folded layer of Gore-tex material and absolutely not a drop got inside. My preference is for full face helmets for warmth and safety, though I did bring an open face one with me to the States last year for my trip with Matt up to Laconia Bike Week last year. I have fleece neck warmers and neck buffs and even buffs with a fleece section that does it all in one. The last thing to go on is the reflective jacket that is another layer against the cold and improves the rider’s visibility.
Muddy roads are not stopping the fun I’m having on the V-strom 1000 Adventure.
I am really enjoying my new scoot, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure and getting out on it as much as possible. I have it three weeks now and am appreciating it more every time I get to ride it. It’s due it’s first service at 1000km and this morning when I rolled it out of the basement I knew it was gone over 1000km so it was time to head to AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland) in Gorey, County Wexford to see if the guys were able to fit in the service, which is essentially an oil and filter change. I think you should be able to read the dash, immediately under the 0 for speed. The reading was 001140 kilometres this morning before I set off. Thankfully Craig told me that it would be tomorrow morning before they can do it, which is great! I don’t even have to think up an excuse to go for a blast on the V-Strom again tomorrow morning.
So having been in AMI and enjoying a coffee there I decided to go visit a young man who is crazy about motorbikes and loves when his Grandfather comes to visit so he can get on one. My grandson is three months old today. Páidí was born on 31st October and today is 31st January, so it was only right and proper that I took the bike out to visit him and his Mum and Dad, and of course he insisted on taking a close look at the bike to make sure I am caring for it properly. I think it passed muster because the only comment he made was a few approving gurgles and that was good enough for me. So after that seal of approval I headed back towards home and stopped in Nolan’s garage for the obligatory power wash. The roads are just filthy at this time of the year, caused by a combination of the very changeable weather and the increased agricultural activity because the farmers are ploughing every chance they get, and rightly so. The road surfaces are so muddy that the muck is kicking up even without going off road. It’s not too much of a chore to give the bike a blast of the washer anyway. I am really enjoying the bike’s ability to sail along on all road surfaces, whether it’s wet or mucky. The bike seems to take it all in it’s stride and even the once or twice I’ve had it out when the low temperature warning was flashing, I felt very confident that all was well and traction was good. And doesn’t it look well when it is washed? It will be out in the morning again. Another spin back into Gorey and our friends in AMI and let’s hope they won’t be concerned that the 1000km service is going to be done at over 1200km, because we passed that figure on the digital read out on the way home from visiting Páidí.