Monday, January 16, 2017

Chomp and Chat ride to Tidbinbilla (First Ride)

A burst of motorcycle inspiration saw me join the Canberra Branch of the Ulysses Club for their Chomp and Chat ride to Tidbinbilla on Sunday 15 Jan 17.   

Before going further, by way of introduction, my name is Leigh Nielsen and the proud new owner of a Royal Enfield Continental GT (more on this later).  I have just returned to motorcycling after an extensive layoff, a story that seems to be common amongst Ulysses Club members.   

I am sure the common thread amongst “comeback kids” is that their skills once held in youthful exuberance have long since waned and a more sober evaluation of one’s riding skills needs to be undertaken. Something of a recalibration between perceived historical  skill versus actual ability,  current speed perception, and older body and reflexes. I thought a group ride would be a good way to ease myself back into riding so I pencilled in Sunday 15 Jan, Caltex - Hume, 11 am.

Upon arriving at Caltex Hume I met our ride leader Ron and Secretary Kim, plus a bunch of other members who also had names! Amongst some serious riding iron was a scattering of smaller bikes so I did not feel totally out of place with my 29.1 (bhp at 5100 rpm) horses of Royal Enfield power.  A ride briefing ensued followed by some tall stories but true. With the formalities over it was time to mount the bikes and an impressive formation snaked its way towards Tidbinbilla.

It was fun to be part of a group ride again and Ron set a good pace suitable for all riders, no matter what their riding iron or skill level.   In many ways I feel like a learner again so I appreciated the discipline and pace of the group and confirmed in my mind that I had done the right thing joining the ride. 
By the time we reached Tidbinbilla it had warmed up and it was good to get the jacket and helmet off and settle into the air-conditioned café for the Chomp and Chat part of the day’s activity.   

A very sociable hour or so talking bike and watching the Keith Code video the owner had thoughtfully put on.  
From here part of the group went to Corrin Dam while the rest proceeded directly to Tharwa and back home.  A very enjoyable afternoon and one that I look forward to repeating. 

Why a Royal Enfield?
The most common question I was asked during the ride was “Why a Royal Enfield?”    This was usually followed by “it looks great, but …”    In my previous life as a motorbike rider I had a string of BMW R Series bikes (R65, R80, R100RS); a couple of UJM (Universal Japanese Motorbikes – XJ650, GPz 750R) and my last bike a ’94 Honda VFR750.  Most of my holidays were spent motorcycle touring the country.

When considering a bike for my current adventure I decided  a V twin 650 or twin/single 500cc would suit my needs.  I wanted something reasonably light, manoeuvrable, fun and would be suitable for day or weekend rides one-up.  The single comes from my appreciation of modified Yamaha SR 500’s in the Manx Norton/Café Racer style.  The initial favourite was the Suzuki SV650 followed by the Japanese  500cc road bikes.  

Then I saw a Royal Enfield Continental GT!  It was love at first sight.  I appreciate that the Japanese bikes in the range I mentioned have more power, are more comfortable, have superior acceleration,  brakes, handling, etc., i.e., in a nutshell are superior motorcycles!  But the look, sound, vibration and rawness were a thing to behold in comparison to the refined, but IMHO characterless,  Japanese offerings.  Not bagging Japanese bikes, just a perspective from my age, experience and bike background - and one man’s definition of motorbike character is another man’s definition of inferior design or performance!  Plus, it was by any measure something different from my previous experience.

 Just as non-bike riders cannot understand why you would buy a motorbike at “your age”, it is the same when buying a particular bike compared to other bike riders preferences.   It is something that appeals to where you are now in your life journey.  

Good riding!
Leigh Nielsen