Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Triumph Trophy SE 2013 - an unbiased opinion

I was given a great opportunity to evaluate my next steed when Anders of Eurotune in Queanbeyan offered to let me take the Triumph Trophy for a short test ride. I collected the bike on the Friday afternoon so we could lead the progression of motor cycles to Merimbula first thing on Saturday morning for Christmas in July.

My first impression was that it seems twice the size of our Sprint but once you start riding this impression diminishes. The lower seating position caters for my long lanky legs and the wide handle bars help to manoeuvre the bike when needed. The bike is well balanced and copes easily with any speed from pottering around to full throttle on the open highway and you are confident that you are backed up by the stable rock solid feel of the Triumph brand. The brakes pull you up without hesitation and using the rear brake pedal does not hamper the balance as it is linked to one front disc and rear brake.

Tracey climbed aboard once we had packed all our gear into the larger capacity panniers and reported she was impressed with the ease of embarking and the large soft comfortable seat (I’m hoping this is enough to sway her to allow me to buy the Trophy – clever Anders). After meeting up with everyone at Hume we started down the highway to Cooma and I played with the cruise control, the screen and scrolled through the readouts showing tyre pressure, seating position, etc. I was surprised to find the fuel economy was running around 4.5 litres per 100klms giving you a 530kms ride before refuelling. We stopped at Nimmitabel for lunch where we had to allow extra room to park the bike as my long legs made reversing uphill a little harder. After lunch we travelled down Brown Mountain where it was hard to let the bike flow due to the four wheel vehicles hogging the road with nowhere to pass safely.

Arriving at Merimbula neither of us was achy or sore. Starting up on Sunday morning we headed to Bermagui via Tathra along a nice twisty section of road but the suspension was possibly too soft for two up with luggage riding on the soft setting. We were able to change it at the stop at Bermagui to the normal setting which changed the handling more to my liking. We rode through another lovely section of road passing water views and sleepy villages. I refuelled the bike at Bodalla before stopping at the Dairy Shed for lunch which allowed the group some great food and a break before heading back home. Tracey and I travelled by ourselves back to Bungendore without stopping and even after I pulled a back muscle while packing I wasn’t uncomfortable travelling home.

The moment which made my mind up was when we rode up the Clyde Mountain as one with nature through the flowing corners letting the Triumph take control of the road as it unfolded in front of us. The windshield impressed me as it not only electronically adjusts six inches to suit you, but it also actually remembers its last position. So, when you start the bike, you don’t have to waste time readjusting it. The nice thing is that we could talk to each other while riding at lower speeds as it blocks out the noise of the wind.

I handed the Trophy back on Monday - it was a sad moment but I was very impressed with the bike. A special thankyou to Anders from Eurotune in Queanbeyan for allowing me to take the bike out for a real test ride. I walked outside to ride my Sprint home and after riding the Trophy all weekend it seemed smaller than I remembered.

My final hurdle is to convince my wife to let me purchase our new champagne coloured Triumph Trophy possible in 2014.

I hope you are listening Mr Triumph.

Michael Winters

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Christmas in July – Merimbula – 27-28 July 2013

The 42 attendees (not individually named due to space restrictions) all had an absolute blast and the people who did not come will have to imagine the great fun we had. We met everyone at Hume, test riding the Triumph Trophy SE 2013, which Mick had picked up from Eurotune the day before. 

The weather was glorious as we all gathered at Hume with Mick ticking off attendees and Judy gathering funds for the dinner. The ride down the Monaro Highway to the Nimmitabel Bakery was alternately sunny (relatively warm) and foggy (chilly). We bypassed Cooma taking the Polo Flat Road arriving at the bakery for an early lunch at 11.30. Tracey can recommend the caramel and macadamia slice. Forewarned of the numbers expected the bakery coped very well and it was warm and cosy inside with everyone indulging in the culinary delights and coffee on offer.

We travelled along the Snowy Mountains Highway through Candelo seeing wallabies, hawks and an echidna on the way. Brown Mountain was fun on the new bike although Mick was frustrated he couldn’t give the bike its head due to the overly cautious car in front - we spent most of the time inhaling cooked brake fumes. We arrived at Merimbula around 2pm with everyone checking in – except Judy who seemed confused over her reservation (which Motel?) and had to resort to blaming her chauffeur for the mix-up. After an entertaining walk on the Merimbula boardwalk it was time to get back to our rooms, get ready, and meet everyone else at the Club Sapphire dressed in their Christmas finery. 

We met Leo first – he had come dressed as a present – sadly his suggestion to a lady that she might like to take him home and unwrap him was politely declined. After some pre dinner drinks we were herded into a room especially put aside for us. 42 of us sat down to a festive dinner of soup, turkey with vegetables and plum pudding with cream and custard. Then the real fun began with the usual Secret Santa mayhem – a bottle of rum proved very popular changing hands many times, but the holder of the last ticket decided to swap his gift for a jewellery box his wife had taken a fancy to. Prizes were handed to the best dressed for the night. While some danced or bingoed the night away, we two and Judy were clever enough to catch the club courtesy bus back to our lodgings where a select few were invited to a port party.

The next day dawned cloudy but this did little to dampen our enthusiasm for a BBQ breakfast – Darryl, Mike and Caroline excelled at cooking enough bacon, eggs and toast to feed an army – thanks guys! Washing this down with juice, tea and coffee it was a good chance to discuss the previous night and plan the trip home. We took the road to Bermagui via Tathra encountering a few boy racers on the way (some were even ours and you know who you are). After coffee at the Sundeck CafĂ© at the Bermagui Fishermen’s Wharf we travelled to the Bodalla Dairy Shed for lunch – again encountering a boy racer on a Ducati (another Sunday rider). Much time was spent (wasted) trying to convince Tracey to let Mick buy the Trophy (one bottom, one licence = one bike!) After lunch everyone staggered their departure and we were almost the last to leave arriving home by 3.30. 

Another fabulous Canberra Ulysses Xmas in July capably organised by Judy. While the weather was kind to us, the roads twisty enough and the test bike a joy, the success of this special annual weekend is due to the hard work done by Judy in organising the whole event – the venue, the menu, Secret Santa and the suggestions for accommodation. 

Many thanks to Judy from all who attended this marvellous event.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Meet and Greet with the Foster Ulysses Club at their Christmas in July – 20-21 July 2013.

Tracey and I were asked to come and share the Forster Ulysses Club’s Christmas in July at the Albert and Victoria Guest House in Mt Victoria close to Katoomba. We are connected to this group by Kris and Peter Bentley who are Tracey’s sister and brother in-law and they are the reason I started looking at the Ulysses club originally even before buying my Sprint.

I met this group of friends two years ago when I took my first long ride after twenty five years, travelling to visit my family near the Queensland border. I stopped off and stayed the night with Kris and Peter at Wingham and joined them for a club ride to Kempsey. On the way back I was invited to join them for their Christmas party so this was my first example of how big our Ulysses family actually is. Coincidentally we bumped into three of them while queuing for the Grand Parade at the Maryborough AGM.

Travelling via the Queanbeyan Aldi store to pick up some more winter warmers in our new Pearl Wing we made our way to the Goulburn bakery for a late breakfast then drove through Taralga, Oberon and on to Mt Victoria. We arrived at a building still in the 1920’s era with lovely staircases and fixtures. We were greeted by the Manager and Chef and shown to our room where we rested until the main group of twenty two arrived from Taree. 

After some brief introductions we moved to the Imperial Hotel, opened in 1878, to start our Christmas celebrations in front of blazing open fires. After a couple of hours we walked back to our guest house to find a long table had been set with a Christmas theme in the dining room. 

The food was delicious – smoked salmon with a savoury cream cheese filling lying on a rosti bed accompanied by grilled asparagus, pork and turkey with as many baked vegetable as you could eat, finishing with plum pudding served with berries and cream – all washed down with mulled wine. The festivities went on with the normal banter between members and their wives and a great night was had by all.

We woke to the sounds of practice for the Moto GP as members huddled in the upstairs TV viewing area. The Guest House laid on a hot breakfast with individual tastes catered for served in the breakfast room – cereal, toast, eggs (cooked to your liking), bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and juice with coffee and tea on tap.

As the Forster bikes are more used to warmer climes, some sounded a black ice alarm, even though they had spent the night safely parked undercover, as the temperature dipped to below zero as they left the warmth of the shed. 

After packing and loading the Pearl Wing and saying our good byes we hit the road to Oberon where the temperature did not rise above 2 degrees. Snow had been forecast overnight and sure enough there was snow covering the ground and trees beside the road all the way to the Abercrombie caves.

We thought we would meet up with the brave riders of the ACT Ulysses Club at Taralga Pub for lunch after giving the Forster group a hard time about their dislike of cold weather, but all we did was watch a movie with the publican and some locals, enjoying a healthy meal of chips and gravy, before heading home alone. 

We considered this weekend a dress rehearsal for the main event – the Canberra Ulysses Club Christmas in July to be held at Merimbula and we’ve suggested to our in-laws that they come to our Club’s celebration next year to see how much fun we have.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ride Report – Appalachian Mountains June 2013

  • Andrew & Catherine Campbell  Honda GL1800 Goldwing
  • Ian & Sally Paterson  Honda GL1800 Goldwing

Sally and I caught the Amtrak train from Schenectady, NY to Washington DC (business class, which is surprisingly affordable) and met up with Andrew and Catherine just across the Potomac River in Falls Church, Virginia. The next morning we picked up our rented Goldwings from Eagle Rider of DC (which is in Falls Church) and hit the road. Both bikes were both bright yellow, which made for plenty of comments (some which may or may not have included the word 'gay') but which also made them very visible in bad weather.

Very Yellow Goldwings
 We crossed the Shenandoah Valley and took some great back roads (thanks to Andrew's GPS, which found a way around a huge traffic jam probably caused by an accident) and spent the first night in Staunton, Virginia. In case you're ever there, the locals pronounce it Stanton and it's a great little town. We had a hilarious night there that involved a fictitious dinner reservation (fortunately the real Jim never showed up), Skyler and Brad's wedding, some great gelato and the best coffee I've had in the US (and it was free!).

We spent the next three days riding the 755 kilometre Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows the crest of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. It's probably the best motorcycle road I've ever ridden, with sweeping curves (and some tight ones, but no nasty surprises), plenty of tunnels, spectacular views and a smooth, on-camber pavement. It rises to over 6,000 feet, so we saw all sorts of vegetation and wildlife. We were lucky with the weather, only having two short stints in the rain and a bit of thick fog.

A Parkway with Altitude

Along the Parkway we stayed overnight at Roanoke, VA and Boone, North Carolina and made a lunchtime detour to Mt Airy, NC, which is Andy Griffith's home town and the inspiration for the town of Mayberry in the 1960s Andy Griffith Show. Everything there was Mayberry this and Mayberry that but on the whole it was kind of disappointing. There are so many bikers in America -- on the Parkway I saw more Goldwings in one day than I would see in a whole year in Australia. And they all wave to each other, even the Harley riders (although it's sort of a lazy wave, a drop of the hand with two fingers extended, like you're drying them out after they've been up your nose).

Paterson Corners
 The Parkway ended at Cherokee, NC, but we rode a bit further to the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge, set on 39 acres in the lush Stecoah valley just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We spent three wonderful nights there in a cabin and rode some great roads in NC and Tennessee, including the Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway. We also had a rest day, which serendipitously coincided with some bad weather. 

We were definitely in the South and this area is in the Bible Belt (there are Southern Baptist churches everywhere). The local county was dry, which meant we couldn't buy and beer or wine although we could bring it in from elsewhere, but we were lucky and inherited an Esky full of ice and beer from some guys who were leaving. The people in the South were incredibly friendly, although we sometimes wished we could have subtitles when they were speaking to us.

They also mix their religion with a love of guns and a few feelings left over from the Civil War. We saw the occasional Confederate flag and one gigantic firearms and ammo store beside a freeway with its name in huge letters – Gunrunners – and beneath that in equally huge letters “Jesus is Lord”. It’s a connection I still can’t quite get my head around.

From the Iron Horse we headed back to Washington DC on some great roads and freeways through the mountains and Shenandoah Valley, spending nights in Asheville, NC (where we visited the Biltmore Estate, a gigantic mansion of questionable taste built in 1895 by the fabulously wealthy Vanderbilts), Roanoke, VA (where I got pulled over by cops who, when they found out I was from Australia and was a bit lost, couldn't have been more helpful), Waynesboro, VA and Falls Church, VA. 

Sally, Andrew and Catherine (and Ian behind the camera) at Deals Gap
On our last day we were intending to ride the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park but the weather was pretty crappy so we stayed on the freeway. Next time! We handed the bikes back to Eagle Rider after putting 2,650 kilometres on the clock (1,649 miles actually, because it was an American clock).

The Appalachian Mountains are amazingly beautiful, the roads are fantastic, the people are friendly and the food is good and in more than ample supply. And if you stay at the Iron Horse you’ll meet bikers from all over.

Ian Paterson