Friday, May 29, 2015

29 May - Winter approaching - Reflections on motorcycle maintenance

I don't know about other riders out there but I often find myself thinking about my motor mechanic as I round a steep bend or overtake other traffic at high speed. Under those conditions the bike (and of course the rider) are tested severely and it is then I sometimes have the fleeting hope that my motorcycle mechanic is one of those fussy types obsessive about the smallest details.

I don't give my car mechanics the same degree of attention. Sure, they can make mistakes which can be costly and inconvenient, but the care and attention given to my motorcycle could have a much more direct affect on my well being.

I'm thinking about these issues today because I took a ride of some 130km to the Honda dealer in Bairnsdale to have the 24,000 km service carried out on my Honda Shadow VT750. The remarkable thing about that is that I rode on a cold wintry morning right past the local Honda dealer (5 minutes from my house) to travel the extra 130km to a dealer and service department in which I have confidence - a commodity I lack in the local outlet.

When we hand over our car or motorcycle to the tender mercies of the respective service departments we really have no idea what happens in the workshop. We lack the opportunity and probably the expertise to critically evaluate the skill and dedication lavished on our prized possessions and so we develop our trust and confidence on the basis of the attention paid to the smaller details.

Some weeks ago I had the Honda booked in for tyres and an 18,000 km service at the local Honda dealer. My first surprise was that this store carried no tyres for my bike and seemed unwilling to recommend any brand based on what other customers were using. After leafing through numerous catalogs we finally found some tyres at an acceptable price and placed an order. In order to give them plenty of time to procure the tyres I booked the bike in some two weeks later. On the day I arrived I knew immediately that all was not well, and sure enough after a panicky search for the tyres I was informed they had not arrived. On that basis I cancelled the service and the tyre change and considered my options. I'm unlikely to make any further purchases from this dealer, not because I doubt their expertise and experience, but because the way they conduct their business demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and care which if endemic could have dire consequences for my motorcycle and for me. Why would an attentive, service oriented dealer not be aware the tyres had not arrived and to avoid customer inconvenience, rescheduled the service?

On that occasion I contacted the more distant Honda dealer in Bairnsdale and the difference in treatment I received was so startling that it suddenly crystallised in my mind the contrast between the two companies. The people at Doyle and Shield in Bairnsdale acted with enthusiasm and attention to customer needs, the local dealer didn't appear to care about me and my convenience at all.

I quickly established that Doyle and Shields could supply any of three different brands of tyres, from stock and immediately. They were also able to recommend a brand on the basis of the experience of other customers and at a price which was about $25 cheaper per tyre.  I booked the bike in at the next earliest opportunity and despite the distance was happy travel the extra distance to have the bike attended to. All went to plan and my good opinion of the service department improved even further when the service guy came out to make comment on the work carried out and to remind me to take it easy for a while as new tyres can be a bit slippery. Once again, I had no idea of the quality of the actual work performed but the communication and attention to detail gave me confidence in this service department.

Since then, with the trip to Queensland, another 6,000 km has passed and today it was time to ride back to Bairnsdale for the 24,000 km service. Once again I was very happy with my experience and as I spent an hour or so waiting in the showroom I was able to observe the interaction between the staff and customers at this dealership. Many mediocre businesses could learn a lesson or two here.

You may wonder why I don't carry out my own maintenance as many other bike owners do. The Honda is a low tech bike and not difficult to understand and no specialist equipment is needed other than a lifter for the bike. Without the ability to lift the bike everything is extremely inconvenient to get to and at the end of the day I derive my pleasure from riding the dam thing and not from tinkering with it.

I would be interested to hear other thoughts on the issue of motorcycle maintenance.

You can check out the Doyle and Shields web site here:

Monday, May 11, 2015

10 May - Queensland Trip - Summary

Checking the SRA forum site I see that all my riding companions (except one) of the north bound ride have returned home safely. One of our mates John was visiting friends/family and expects to be back in Vic this week. Now that I've been home a couple of days it seems timely to summarise my thoughts of the trip. First, a couple of maps of the outbound and return trips.
Sunshine Coast Rides


  • All the Honda Shadows performed flawlessly. One bike with an after market air filter got a bit waterlogged in the very wet weather but this was easily resolved
  • Riding in a group is fun in terms of companionship and the sense of 'sharing' the adventure but on the other hand riding solo gives greater freedom and a greater sense of achievement
  • Rode through the worst weather possible and all the wet weather gear and luggage worked well.
  • Heavy rain AND dwindling daylight is a scary combination. Need to upgrade the headlight brightness on my bike.
  • It is important to stop and change clothing if temperature drops. During the ride from Sydney to Goulburn the temperature dropped at least 10ÂșC. In trying to get to Goulburn before dusk I didn't stop to add a layer of clothing which was a mistake
  • Felt no discomfort from the Shadow's stock standard seat even on the longest leg which was more than 700km.
  • Almost got the 'pack list' right - one or two items too many

Friday, May 8, 2015

8 May - Day 12 - Home Sweet Home

Got up at 6:30 this morning and kitted up for really cold weather - thermals, double socks, glove liners the lot. The trip from Goulburn to Traralgon continues for a few hundred kilometres on high plains and although the sky was clear it was bitterly cold. By the time I fuelled the bike (too cold to do it last night) and headed down the Federation Highway to Canberra it was 07:30. Fortunately my multi-layered clothing kept out the worst of the cold and after a while with the Shadow purring away steadily, I started to enjoy the ride. Negotiated Canberra without a problem and then took the Monaro Highway to Cooma. The crisp cool conditions lent an almost magical quality to the Monaro's stark landscape and by now the temperature was rising somewhat, and I was starting too look forward to breakfast and a coffee in Cooma. The next leg was Cooma to Bombala which continues the 'high plains' theme and apart from a couple of delays due to road work, this section of the ride was uneventful and my confidence of making home by tonight improved.  After Bombala the route goes down to sea level following the Cann Valley highway and with the rapid drop in altitude came a welcome increase in temperature. I crossed the border into Victoria at 11:50 about the same time that the feeling returned to my feet. Blue skies continued and by now the ride was becoming quite enjoyable. Another fuel stop in Cann River and off again along the Princes Highway and the familiar territory of East Gippsland. Made a brief toilet and food stop at the Bellbird Hotel, which is in the middle of nowhere between Cann River and Orbost.

The clear skies and warm weather held out until I got to Stratford. The skies over Traralgon looked ominous but I had already decided that if it started raining I would just keep going and tough it out. But all was well - although it got quite dark there was no rain. Pulled into my drive at 4:45.

Total Distance 653 km
Total Distance for Trip 4,745 km

Thursday, May 7, 2015

7 May - Day 11 - Coffs Harbour to Goulburn

The alarm went off at 6:30 this morning signalling an early departure from Coffs Harbour. Despite the early hour it was quite mild and the sky was clear. Today I was planning to traverse Sydney before the afternoon traffic chaos, hence the early start. Reached Sydney by 2 pm and traffic was quite light, and in no time I was sharing the M7 with dozens of large transports all en route to Melbourne.
For a while I considered aiming for Canberra but two things changed my mind. First, the temperature was dropping drastically and also the late afternoon sun was shining directly into my eyes resulting in very poor visibility - not great when travelling at high speed surrounded by trucks. In the end I was very glad to see the exit to Goulburn. Grabbed the first motel I saw and checked in. By then my teeth were chattering so much I had difficulty booking in. Restaurant looks good though and will be checking it out once I thaw out.

Total Distance 715km

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

6 May - Day 10 - Gympie to Coffs Harbour

Left Gympie this morning at 8:45 on another glorious, sunny day. All the thermal gear and jacket liners which were indispensable just a few days ago are now packed away. The first few hours of riding was all on freeways. First the Bruce Highway and then on to the M1 the Gold Coast Highway. Because it was such a nice day I decided to get off the highway which bypasses the Gold Coast and to enjoy cruising through this area which is all high rise holiday resorts and canals.
Finally the Gold Coast disappeared behind me as I crossed into New South Wales. Before long the countryside flattened out into sugar cane plantations and state forests. The plan for today was to reach the coastal town of Coffs Harbour and it was about 4:30 pm as I passed the famous "Big Banana" which I featured in my blog of the previous trip here (but going North instead of South).
11 April 2013 - Big Banana on BMW

I had hoped to stay at the Comfort Inn in Coff's because it features a Bavarian Restaurant in a replica Dutch windmill.
Unfortunately, when I got there it was booked out so I had to turn back to find another place to bed down for the night. Now settled into the Zebra Motel, which is owned by an African and the restaurant features an African theme. Very spicy and very good. Nice to have a change from the usual motel fare.
The bike is all fuelled for an early start tomorrow, and if the good weather holds out I'm aiming to leave at 7 am hoping to get to the other side of Sydney by tomorrow.

Total Distance 652km.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5 May - Day 9 - Noosa Heads

Another beautiful Queensland day today so I decided to ride the 60km to Noosa Heads one of the most popular holiday destinations in Australia. I really enjoy these shorter rides with no pressure - just relaxing riding which is what cruisers are all about. Noosa was quite busy with holiday makers no doubt escaping the colder weather down South. Had a very nice brunch in a cafe on Hastings St which is the main shopping street for Noosa. Shortly afterwards I followed that up with a Royal Copenhagen strawberry ice cream - yes, another one.

Spent another hour or so wandering around and taking a few photos before heading back to Gympie to start the task of repacking for the trip home.

Total Distance 140 km.

Monday, May 4, 2015

4 May - Day 8 - Just Relaxing

No riding today. My sister took a day of work and after a lazy breakfast (on another perfect day) we drove down to Noosaville to have lunch at the Burger Bar. I've been coming to the Burger Bar for years - what an experience. If you can get to Queensland come and visit and if you can't, treat yourself to a mouth watering experience by just visiting the web site and checking out the menu. You can find the Burger Bar here. A few doors down the street from the Burger Bar is the fabulous Amo Gelato cafe, and no visit to Thomas Street is complete without a scoop of their great ice cream. We both indulged of course.
If the great weather holds out tomorrow I'll probably go for a ride into the hills.

3 May - Day 7 - Poona, Gympie in Queensland

Last night was dinner with all the SRA members who had travelled to Maroochydore. The venue was the Maroochydore Bowls Club, and before dinner we played barefoot bowls which was simply lawn bowls without footwear.
Really enjoyed the game - I can see how it would get you in. Anyway it turns out I have a bit of aptitude for the game.  My team won and I pulled off quite a few spectacular bowls. Here's one of the winning ones.
After finishing the bowls competition it was time for dinner. Unfortunately our dining room was right next to the room where Saturday night Karaoke was being held. All my life I've successfully avoided Karaoke but last night there was no getting away from a few of the locals determined to murder some of my favourite songs. By 10pm I had suffered more than any human being should have to and I walked the short distance to my apartment to enjoy the quiet and the solitude.
This morning was a club breakfast prepared at the Cotton Tree Caravan Park. Bacon and eggs on fresh muffins. Then after filling and washing the bike I decided not to join a club ride but instead to head for the little town of Poona which is located across the water from Fraser Island. My sister and her partner have a little holiday spot here and we spent the afternoon sitting in beautiful sunshine catching up on all the family news.

After a very pleasant afternoon it was time to return to Gympie where I will spend the next couple of days before commencing the trek home.

Total Distance 240 km

Saturday, May 2, 2015

2 May - Day 6 - Maroochydore - What a difference a day makes

Had a great night's sleep in Toowoomba last night. I shared a room with two other guys and we all had our clothes all over the place trying to get them dry for the morning - quite a humid environment. As it turned out it was a good thing we quit yesterday when we did. If we had continued we would have encountered major flooding on all the roads to Maroochydore. The Bruce Highway alone was unapassable in 5 places. We heard this morning that 5 people were killed in incidents where cars were swept from the road by floodwater. Instead we were sheltering in a nice motel and enjoying dinner in an Italian restaurant right across the road.
First thing I did when I woke up this morning was to grab the phone to check the rain radar. This is what greeted me.
At first I thought I must have chosen the wrong region but it was pleasant surprise to find the storm we encountered yesterday was gone. Sure enough when we mounted up this morning to finish the last 250km or so of our ride the weather became more pleasant the further we went and by the time we reached Maroochydore it was getting very warm.
Ready to leave Toowoomba (Photo Courtesy SRA)
After catching up with all our other SRA members it was time to check into our apartment, have a shower and put on some clean dry clothes. Immediately washed all the damp stuff and it's in the dryer right now.
Tonight's activities include 'barefoot bowls' (whatever that is) and dinner at the local Lawn Bowls club which located right here on the beach. Then tomorrow we have a quick AGM and when the formalities are finished we're off on a 'mystery' ride and Poker Run. Following that I'll be leaving the group to spend a few days with family in Gympie which is only an hour's ride from here. Then it will be time to plan the return trip home.

Total Distance 247 km

Friday, May 1, 2015

1 May - Day 5 - Into the Eye of the Storm

We left Goondiwindi at 7:30 this morning. After fuelling we decided to skip breakfast and get a head start hoping to minimise the effect of the storms forecast for SE Queensland. Unfortunately due to a mix up in the navigation instructions we headed off in the wrong direction and rode nearly 200km before we realised we were now 200km further from our destination, not closer. Given the conditions, rain and wind, and the extra distance that needed to be covered it seemed unlikely we would reach our destination of Maroochydore tonight. At every fuel stop people were amazed we were riding and when we told them where we were going it seemed the weather was going to get a lot worse. We had no choice but to ride stopping only for fuel every 200km, and when we refuelled at Dalby, it seemed that we might still make it.
By 4pm most of the daylight was gone and we were riding on roads which were completely surrounded by water on all sides. Stopping was not an option - no shelter and a real chance of being caught in a flood. The photo above (not mine) captures a little of what our conditions were like although not as sunny.
By the time we reached Toowoomba, it became clear that we were not going to get to the Sunshine Coast and changed our attention to finding a motel which could accommodate the whole group. Fortunately we managed to do so quickly and at the moment we are all busy drying out our gear. Not sure what tomorrow will bring. The forecast doesn't look good but we're hopeful of reaching our destination tomorrow morning.

This radar map shows what we are dealing with. We're right in the middle of it.

Total Distance 602km