Live Vicariously at The Top of the World, Thru My Eyes

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So you can’t get away from the madding crowd. Time, money, commitments, and skill simply haven’t aligned to join me on a motorcycle heading to the top of the world.

I totally understand.

Which is why I’ve bought a pair of Liquid Image Motorbike Goggles with embedded Hi Def Video Camera…

…And I’ve set up a new blog for my (and hopefully other) motorcycle tours, called Thru My Eyes.

So you can live vicariously in the mountains with me. Go and check out the Himalaya Chronicles. Thru My Eyes.

No promises about the currency of content. That will depend on Electricity and Internet Connectivity. But I’ll try to post as often as I can. To be there with me as often as you can, best you subscribe.

 

The TITAN

I am the proud owner of one Plox TITAN!!

I know, right!

Absolutely no kill switch on awesome, and this will keep the switch definitely on when I’m in the back of beyond with no connection to reliable lectric.

What is a Plox TITAN I hear you ask?

Well I’m glad you did, because dear power sucking, social medialite, earth pillager, I am about to rock your device hungry world.

The Plox TITAN (sorry I just love saying that) is an 11,200maH portable battery pack. Yep it’s a mobile charger for your i-, g-, and w- devices. Actually, anything that needs a 5V DC charge. Which includes my Liquid Image Torque HD Goggles, not to mention my GoPro, and yep, even the Sony NEX Camera.

At 11,200maH it will charge an iPhone EIGHT times. And with a 1V & 2.1V output it will charge an iPad!! As well as another device simultaneously.

Genius.

Like beer. In a bottle. Only electricity.

Perfect for the Himalayas

Shout Out
I promised to shout out the guys at Plox. Y’see since hearing about this awesomeness on the Two Blokes Talking Tech Podcast I spent the week visiting Dick Smith and JB HiFi stores in vain to get one.

Finally just two days before the trip I visited the Plox website, and enquired if I could even get the device before I left. Yes was the promise, and thanks to Josh at Plox, AusPost and the new awesome Parcel Locker service , it was in my locker this morning.

Totally buzzed by this product that must surely be a best seller amongst us nomad types who want to stay connected, I also enquired about an affiliate program.

“Alas, no” they said. But then proceed to give me a 20% discount code for whoever wants to buy one.

So head on over and get $20 off this piece of magic. PLUS Free shipping. Ooh Billy.

That means for a mere $80 you get a mobile power unit for tablets and smartphones, cameras and action cams. Cheaper than those units that only half charge your phone like, once.

Contact me for the code. Better yet, leave a comment below…

Better than that, head over to my Himalaya Ride Blog and leave a comment there. Especially when I’m riding.

Post, share, retweet, link, you know the drill.

All power to you!

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Random Shots Detailing an Adventure Tourer’s Evolution

Himalaya Preparation – Part Deux

On Sunday I took the second opportunity to head out for multiple kilometres on the bike to break in and test gear. This time I rode with Justin, and we headed out early – 7am – over the Blue Mountains. Breakfast at the Hartley Roadhouse, and then along the Jenolan Caves Road to Oberon, back to Lithgow, and back over Bell’s Line of Road to get home at just before 3pm.

350kms of riding with over 300 of them at temps below 6C and well over about 150 at temps below 2.5C. It was cold!!

From Hartley through the Jenolan Caves road and loop through Oberon, not only was it icy, but windy, and that horrible driving rain. This made the roads wet, the visibility low, and the anxiety level somewhat elevated with the risk of black ice on the roads.

In fact I couldn’t have asked for better preparation for the mountain trip. I got to test the gear in wet, cold, wind, and over long periods of time after a hard day’s riding. Almost exactly like I’ll experience in India…

…Except I’ll be on a 26HP Royal Enfield Bullet with 1950′s brakes and suspension, rather than a 2014 Ducati Multistrada with 150HP, electronic suspension, traction control, and (most importantly) heated grips
…Except the roads will be significantly worse, eroded, repaired, clogged with traffic, no guardrails – rather than the NSW RMS maintained ribbons of tar we ride on
…Except I’ll have been riding 5 – 10 hour days for 2 weeks, not just one day
…Except I’ll be at altitudes well over double Australia’s highest point, and 5 times the altitude I got to on the Blue Mountains, and most likely suffering Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness
…Except it’s unlikely I’ll be in an area with cellphone signal, and there’s NO SPOT coverage in India – unlike here where Emergency Help is but a call away

So nothing like the Himalaya Trip at all then :-)

…But as close as we can get on a NSW Winter’s Day in the mountains.

Multistrada_FTW__

A_Ducati_where_it_should_be..._...on_the_road

GS_Tripping

Better Together

I took the opportunity of a family free week-end to get out on the bike and enjoy this spectacular weather we’re having. Also, to break in the new touring gear I’m getting for the upcoming Himalayan “Top of the World” Adventure.

I tootled up the Old Pacific Highway to TORC – The Old Road Cafe, where I enjoyed breakfast with another couple of blokes I met on the road, and joined my mate Evan for the longer ride. We then rode up to Pokolbin up the Peats Ridge Road, past Wollombi and Broke. The day was spectacular, the vineyard estate we stopped at for lunch superb, and the weather (temperature aside) sublime. All in all, 324kms of goodness.

My original plan this week-end was to overnight somewhere outback. But that plan changed with another endeavour I’m engaged in requiring me to be back home for the evening. Then I was going to head out to Pokolbin with Evan for lunch, and return along the Putty Road. But by the time we got lunch (45 mins to be served) it was gone 2:30 when we left. This was really too late to head west into the setting sun and get home before dark on the Putty road. And frankly, I didn’t want to ride alone. So Evan and I went to Toronto for coffee (and sticky date pudding) and around Lake Macquarie.

Riding is awesome, but it’s always better together…

 


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How did the gear do?

Well the new Kriega R25 backpack was brilliant. I’ve never been able to get a backpack on and off with a bike jacket on before, but this one, with its “Quadlock” Harness system made it easy. The harness also distributes the load comfortably. To the point where you are no longer conscious of the backpack at all.

I also went with the 3L Hydration pack, which is going to be imperative in India. This was good, but I haven’t figured out how to drink with the helmet on yet, or if that’s even possible ;-)

The Olympia Motoquest Touring pants are fantastic. Comfortable, practical, and protective. Given the temperature wearing long johns is a must, but the pants did their job.

One of the things I’ve been trying to figure out is a way to have my Sony NEX 6 camera close to hand (without a tank bag) so I can stop, take a photo, and move on again without having to remove a backpack or open a pannier. To this end I spent some time in JB HiFi, Dick Smith, Kathmandu, and MacPac looking at various camera bags. Either they were too small (for compact cameras rather than “mirrorless” cameras) or too big and bulky (aimed at DSLR’s). But I found the solution this morning…

…I found a bicycle saddle or handlebar bag in the kitchen, that is the ideal size for the camera, has a double zip cover, and velcro straps at the bag. I strapped this to my backpack harness, and voila I have a quick release camera bag that takes seconds for me to take out the camera, snap some shots, and return it to be on my way again.

The other major test was to track where I’d ridden using MotionX-GPS on the iPad, with the ability to post this quickly to the blog. Usually I use my SPOT Messenger device, which posts automatically to Spotwalla. The Spotwalla trip is embedded on a page on my blog, so I literally don’t have to think about posting my track at all. As long as I remember to switch the SPOT on in the morning, and onto tracking mode, the rest of the work is done.

However, there is no SPOT coverage in India, which means I need to find another way to track my progress, and upload to the Net for family and friends. And when I’m riding 10+ hours per day I’m not exactly going to have hours or indeed energy to write, edit, upload, and publish content. So whatever I do publish will need to be quick (read, almost instant). Otherwise, I’m simply not going to do it. Also whatever device I use for the tracking needs to have battery life to last a full day. Finally I want to minimise devices. Less to charge, less to carry, less to break or be stolen. I’ve pretty much already decided to take the iPad instead of a laptop. I can do all my blogging and updates from the iPad. As well as any “on-the-road” video or photo editing. It’s small, light, and the battery lasts for-ev-er. A good 12 hours.

This last reason is rationale to use the iPad rather than my iPhone. Whilst I can use MotionX on the iPhone, with all of the same functionality (or most), the iPhone battery drains quickly when using the GPS.

My current thinking is to use MotionX on the iPad, then share the saved track. This posts a link to a Google map on the MotionX website, and I can embed that link in my blog as per above. I needed to prove a couple of things before heading overseas:

  1. The iPad will actually track accurately
  2. I can track with the iPad in my backpack
  3. It will track without access to cellular connectivity
  4. The battery will last long enough for a full day riding
  5. I can do all the posting from the iPad itself at the end of the day without needing another computer

So far, so good. I proved 1 through 4 today, and half of 5 (I shared the link from the iPad, just didn’t actually create this post – but I’ll test that tomorrow)

What do you think? Would you be interested in seeing the GPS track of where I ride, and where I am, when in India?

Is That an Armchair?

Key_largo_for_lunchAs before, with ad hoc bike rental, I continued my trend of riding bikes I haven’t had a chance to ride yet. I figured Miami to the Keys is essentially a straight motorway run, so I’d rent a tourer. My choice was limited to just about any Harley ever produced (and that’s not happening. Ever!), a Honda ST1300, which I rode in my UK trip last year, or a Honda Goldwing.

So my trusty steed for this adventure was the Goldwing. A brand new, 6-cylinder, boxer engined, 1.8l “car on two wheels,” complete with 4 speaker radio, reverse gear, and acres of luggage space. As other bikers disparagingly refer to as “an armchair.” Of course if you’re going to spend entire days on straight motorways, without so much as a bend, fire trail, or bump in sight, you’d probably rather be in an armchair than on a super bike or dual-sport.

Leviathan

This is a BIG bike. A beast that makes the 240kg BMW R1200GS feel like a moped. If this baby falls over, you simply are Not. Lifting. It. Up. Ever! And I don’t even want to think of a leg trapped under this machine. Best not to have reason to.

Initial impressions are of surprising acceleration considering the bulk of the bike. It’s shaft drive, so you’re not going to beat any sports bikes at the lights, but it would be a +$100k sports car to give you a serious run for your money. Of course this bike is so big you’re never going to filter to the front of the lights to find out. But navigating the 4 & 5 lane Florida Turnpike down to US1 was a treat.

You do have to roll power on as you lean into a corner, rather than waiting for the apex. It has a serious tendency to oversteer and drop. Of course counter-steering just makes this worse on a bike, but a handful of throttle gets you around without too many underwear stains.

The weight of the bike lends to a stability that misleads the senses. I noticed Archie dropping way behind as we left Miami, and a quick glance at the speedo brought me up; I was cruising at 95 mph (152 kph). You simply don’t notice the speed. The engine is hardly breaking a sweat, there is no vibration, and whilst there’s turbulence over the top of the windshield, it’s not noticeably different at higher speeds.

Creature Comforts

I’m in Florida, so 5 of the 6 pre-set FM radio stations are Hispanic, which was ok for the time it took me to get used to the layout of the controls and dashboard. Of course you need serious volume to overcome wind noise above 40 mph, and the speakers certainly crank it out. But that doesn’t detract from the actual wind noise. I found the Bluetooth headset in my helmet produced far better quality music, without ads, and knowing glances at traffic lights.

As to that armchair. There is no question that your butt sinks into the plush bucket shaped saddle. Together with the suspension, and simple bulk of the bike, it soaks up most highway impediments. We took 5 hours to get to the Key, and 4 hours back to Eagle Riders next to Miami airport, and there was no hint of iron butt syndrome. And the pillion seat looks even better, with a plush back rest, and footboards rather than pegs. If you’re ever going to be a pillion, this would be the bike to do that on.

Peg-to-seat distance is ok. You’re low down so you can put your legs down at the lights whilst straddling a baby hippo. But the pegs are under you, not in front like a cruiser. This means you don’t get lower back crushes when you hit a pothole. It doesn’t feel like your knees are around your ears, which is how I felt on the ST last year.

The handle bars, however, are another story entirely. I found them too low, which caused serious back pain across my thorax. Nothing I could do, short of standing on the pegs, would alleviate the pain in my back. Perhaps I’m too used to the high, wide, adventure tourer style bars, or simply too old. I did have a massage when we got to Key West, and that along with a couple of Ibuprofen midway through day two, made this manageable. But if I was to buy a large tourer like this, I’d be testing the BMW’s, or installing risers.

Another gripe was the windshield. Bizarrely this is electronically controllable on the ST (i.e. you can raise or lower the windshield), but a fixed feature item on the GW. Its height put a bunch of turbulent air right at my brow. At anything over 40 mph with my visor open, the buffeting would shake my head so hard I couldn’t focus my eyes and my neck hurt. With the visor closed there was still significant buffeting and the greenhouse effect of the Florida sun. Of anything, this is the one item that would put me off ever buying a Goldwing (not that there’s any threat of that).

Money Sink

This is an expensive piece of kit. And one view would be all the value that you get for your money.

If your riding is on the motorways of Europe or the Interstates of the USA, and you’re going to be spending weeks of long days in the saddle, with perhaps a significant, non-rider, other in the back seat; I could see this being a viable option. There’s no question that the luggage space, audio, and seat comfort lends itself to the grey nomad lifestyle.

But be prepared to spend a LOT of money. This thing guzzles fuel like there’s no tomorrow. I easily used more than double what Archie did, over the identical distance at the identical speed. I reckon this thing used more fuel than my car. Certainly a lot more than the Duc.

Then there’s the non-std mod cons you’d be adding: An aux input for your MP3 player, GPS, and adjustable windshield for starters.

If, however, you want to ride your bike more often than the annual motorway tour, or retirement plan, I just don’t get the attraction.

Perhaps it’s a Ducati thing.

I’d love to actually run the numbers, and compare this to an open top roadster. I’m not sure there’d be a lot in it.

There’s Never Too Bad a Day…

…to have a great ride.

I certainly needed to cross this bike off the “bikes I haven’t ridden” list, and I’ve done that.

Was it fun? Sure.

Archie and I had a great time. What’s not to love cruising down the Keys alongside Azure Blue water on a motorbike? Any motorbike.

Thanks

Where do you go when you've achieved one of your goals? Well on to the next one of course. For me, since raising $2000 personally, and more importantly contributing to a team goal of $6000 for the Leukaemia foundation, that's to ride a motorbike to the south-eastern most corner of the continental United States.

Ironically that's on an island called Key West.

First though it's imperative to acknowledge no-one really achieves anything on their own. Two weeks after the shave, with a velvety haircut that's about a month from acceptable, I'd like to shout out everyone who supported us in this endeavour:

Firstly, the long-suffering Lucy, with my daughters Amanzi, Charis, Lead, and Em. Not only are they wearing the continual embarrassment that affiliation with me incurs: “It's ok, he's just done the shave for leukaemia,” but they actually dug into their own wallets and donated hard earned cash to the cause. Anyone who donates more than 4 hours wages to charity is pretty inspirational in my books. Thanks.

Then to my unlikely partners in crime, Adrian, Tony, and Rodney. They shed their good looking locks (well Adrian did anyway) and went cap-in-hand to their friends. No easy task. All of them WGS virgins. No longer. Now inducted into the halls of folk who invest their time and pride for a good cause. Thanks guys. Your hair will grow back soon. And you should be proud at raising as much as we did for your first time.

Those that deserve the most thanks of course are you, readers, friends, family and supporters. Your immediate and unwavering generosity never ceases to amaze me. Thank you. I promised not to come for another cause this year, and fully intend to honour that commitment.

Very few people figure out how to buy happiness with money. This ingeniously simple trick is to spend it on others. I hope you enjoy all the blessings that make it better to give than receive. I won't call out names individually to respect privacy. Those that are happy to be publically acknowledged have already indicated this at http://rog42.tv/shave14

And Ewan? He and Kate celebrated Love, Life, and Happiness with a simple exchanging of vows at a reception in their garden at home. A brief respite for Ewan, and a poignant reminder of all that is truly important.

$6000 raised, thank you.

 

There Can Be Only One

This year I’m asking you my readers, friends and family to support me in just one charitable cause: Once again I’m shaving my head to raise awareness and funds for the Leukaemia Foundation. But for 2014 it will be my only fund-raising drive.

Looking Ruggedly Handsome

Looking Ruggedly Handsome

Over the past decade or so it seems I’ve raised funds for them all:

  • Red Cross,
  • Salvation Army,
  • Oxfam,
  • Black Dog Institute (up to twice a year),
  • Movember,
  • CanToo,
  • and of course the Leukaemia Foundation with the World’s Greatest Shave.

And it seems like the number of worthy causes are increasing too:

  • World Vision,
  • Room to Read,
  • Beyond Blue,
  • Police Community Youth Clubs,
  • Rural Fire Service
  • Baptist World Aid,
  • Campus Crusade,
  • Kiva,
  • South Pacific Ministeries
  • HELP Orphanage in Bangladesh
  • Dayspring Children’s Village in South Africa
  • and Operation Mobilisation  are just some of those we regularly support.

So this year, whilst we’re not giving up on any of our personal support of charitable organisations, or sponsorship of friends like you doing crazy things for a good cause, I’ve resolved to do the sponsorship ask just the once.

The World’s Greatest Shave

You long time friends know that I’ve done this particular effort before. But this year it’s more personal. You see, a good friend, a bloke just like me, has been battling Leukaemia for some time. Ewan Hunt, around my age, technologist, dad, husband, ex-pat, and overall great guy (despite being Scottish) is the most positive person I’ve had the opportunity to meet. And when you spend time at hospital with a close friend, you realise just how important it is to beat this illness. How important it is to support people like Kate, his wife, so she can visit him, whilst caring for their 4 year old son, Finlay. So that his teenage daughter, Eilidh, can spend time with her dad.

Now I think Ewan has always been bald. Certainly as long as I’ve known him. So I’m empathising with his age as much as the effects of his treatment. The personal risk? I guess my hair may come back white. Or not at all. So be it. Please do sponsor me, and support people just like Ewan and Kate. Heck, just like you and me.

And if you can’t afford to sponsor financially, for whatever reason, that’s ok. I understand, I really do. Just looking at that list of causes above reminds me of the demand on our resources. If that’s the case, please send a message of encouragement (or ridicule): On Facebook, Twitter, as a comment below, or on my WGS Profile. Please take the time, a minute perhaps, to let us know your thoughts and prayers are with us.

But if you can spare a Dollar (Rand, Pound, Yen, Ruble, Euro) then please do join us and support this great cause too. Here’s the link:

http://rog42.tv/shave14

Can we raise $2,000?

Up for a Personal Challenge?

And if you’d like to raise more for the cause than you could ever donate yourself? If you’d like to challenge yourself to leave your comfort zone? We’d love you to join our team: No Kill Switch on Baldness. (Btw if you’re already bald, how about committing to wear a wig for a week :-))

http://rog42.tv/wgs2014