Monday, June 11, 2012

Ride route - Almonte to Calabogie (paved)

Are you new to Ottawa and looking for a motorbike day-ride in the area? Here a classic route just west of the city, starting in my beautiful town of Almonte at the falls on the Mississippi River. I've made a few minor jogs to the better-known route so you can explore a bit more of the secondary roads and avoid more traffic. The pavement throughout is good to excellent so it's suitable for any kind of bike. I've even ridden all of it on a road bicycle too.

This route serves as a great jumping-off point for exploring the backcountry side roads--especially west of Hwy 511. There's a ton of great history in this area from the mid-1800's. The wilderness has reclaimed many visible traces of the hardy Scots who tried to make a go of it in this area. But if you know where to look, there is everything from old bush trails, ghost towns, abandoned farms, and old mines to discover. For a taste of the history of the area, you can download several convenient brochures here.

So maybe all that history stuff doesn't interest you. The scenery surely will. Once you leave Almonte you enter the southernmost edge of the Canadian Shield, leaving our Ottawa Valley limestone for rugged, hilly country with white pine, granite outcrops, and long sweeping curves that offers some great vistas. Watch for deer and other wildlife on the road.

If you find this useful, let me know and I'll post additional maps of rides in the area with more adventurous dirt/dualsport options that even the timid 1200GS rider can tackle comfortably on road tires.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tips on suspension tuning

I'd suggest dialing dialing this one up to "11".

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Almonte Pump Track

A few weekends ago a few of us toiled in the hot sun (remember that yellow thing?) and roughed in a pump track at Almonte's Augusta St. park. Now, it's still a work in progress and I don't have a photo handy, but I encourage you to check it out if you're in the area.

What's a pump track, you ask? Well, basically it's a series of tuned bumps and berms that let you roll through fast without pedaling, by using weight transfer to build up a rhythm and speed. Sounds more complicated than it is, although there is definitely an art to it.

Don't laugh when you see our measly track compared to the one in the vid. Ya gotta start somewhere. And ours represents two tri-axle dump truck loads of clay. We know--we shovelled it all. Big thanks to neighbour Don Lowe who showed up with his little tractor to help rough-position the dirt. And a big thanks to Merv Logan of LBL who provided the dirt for free. A few more truckloads and we can build a destination ride.

Honda CRF250L XR650L NC700SA comparo

OK, lots packed into this somewhat misleading title, so bear with me.

Unlike the Canadian Honda site, where crickets abound, the US site offers an interesting comparison between the soon-to-be-released 250 and the venerable 650 dualsports. (You know you're desperate for any kind of insight on the new offering when you have to resort to the factory web site!)

Here I was thinking the 250 would offer significant weight savings. But 26 lbs fully wet seems hardly worth the sacrifice of power that the 650 offers. Plus, you can put the 650 on a diet and match the 250's heft without breaking a sweat (or bank account).

So what else do you get for the extra clams of the 650? Well, adjustable forks and shocks and a few inches more of ground clearance are tempting. A larger stock tank and aftermarket options for even larger tanks are also a bonus. Frankly, I'm finding it hard to justify the smaller bike when the larger one offers about the same range and more customizability. If the 250 had more range it may be a harder decision. 

One of these days I'm going to spring for the 650--as affordable as the 250 is. Too bad there wasn't a sweet 400 or 450 in the line-up, with a larger tank. That would be the perfect trail weapon for backcountry Ontario rides. 

In other news, Honda has also just released (depending on where you are--it seem to be in London but not Ottawa) a rather interesting naked street bike, the NC700SA. Other than nice styling, it offers the remarkable feature of a fake gas tank which is really a storage bin. The real gas tank is under the seat which implies a desirable low centre of mass. Too bad about the cast wheels, because otherwise the platform seems to have the right ingredients to become an interesting alternative to BMW's F800GS. Honda, if you're listening, please offer this bike in a dualsport version.  

Ride announcements on Twitter

Looking for a riding partner? I'm going to start tweeting my upcoming rides on @frankenbuffer. Road, trail, motorbike... it's a crap shoot.

No promises announcement will be much in advance (hey--it's hard enough finding time to ride as it is!) but hopefully some routine will emerge and make predictions easier.

Hint: I'm not a morning person. As much as I enjoy riding in the fresh, dewy morning air, the reality is by the time I'm done with the honeydew list it's more like noon before I'm able to head out. Weekends are open for epic rides, and I can occasionally blow off the late afternoon of work to go ride. Plan on 5 hours for a remote ride in the sticks. It takes an hour just to get to the trailhead.