Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve and here's my Wish List for Santa.

Butt Stingers from Smokey's Grill in Los Barriles.  Yes, these are at the top of the list!

A return to the Grand Canyon.

More Baja adventures with friends.

A Ducati Desert Sled.  This one's a long shot and I'll settle for taking one for a test rip.

To meet new friends like Hiram, who helped get my motorcycle fixed in Baja.
(This is not my motorcycle, however if Santa is generous...)

That my friends and family have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

That each of you will have the adventure you've dreamed of in 2017!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Gerald Trees
Dream Your Ride

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Baja 2016 - Dirt, Sand, Rocks, Broken Parts, Great Food, Good Friends and Fun!

This is the second year in a row that I made the trek to Baja with a group of good friends for 10 days of riding and soaking up some much needed sun.

The plan was to spend as much time as possible off road and visit some new places.  Mission accomplished, sort of...

The challenge with getting off the pavement in the Baja is the unknown conditions of the roads.  The can range from hard back to rock fields and deep sand.  Don't forget the silt pits either...  The conditions can change if their's rain or if there's been a lot of traffic on the road.  The real off road hazard is the washout sections.  They can occur anywhere and are often difficult to spot.  Being observant and slowing down if you're not able to see far ahead is key.

There were a few crashes and bent bike parts, mainly the protective crash bars, however the scenery was well worth the challenge.

Tecate border crossing.  We're getting our tourist permit.

Day one in the dirt

A sketchy foot bridge over a dried river bed

Crossing the sketchy bridge...

Time for a snack and shade

The "famous" Coco's Corner - A Baja landmark

One of many...

It takes a team to clean an air filter

Pancho's place at San Rafeal - This place is remote and apparently the fishing is great

Pancho loves visitors and would love to have more

The most unique lighthouse in the Baja and yes it works

How to get to Pancho's place

Heading inland from San Rafeal

The "hard" road into San Juanico

Roadside repair

Scorpion Bay near the village of San Juanico, Baja

The Scorpion Bay Hotel

Street art in San Juanico

Mi amigo Hiram at Motosport Racing in La Paz who fixed my radiator and got me back on the road

The best Poppers (Butt Stingers) on the planet at Smoky's in Los Barriles 

The end of the road for this trip.  San Jose Del Cabo

Baja is a great destination to ride, eat and soak up the sun.  We'll be back for the ride north in March of 2017.  More dirt and beaches!

Gerald Trees
Dream Your Ride

Friday, 4 November 2016

2016 Honda Africa Twin Review - Finally

2016 Honda Africa Twin Review

In 2015 Honda officially and finally introduced the rebirth of the Africa Twin after more than a year of speculation my the motorcycle media, which included fuzzy photos of prototypes.

The original Africa Twin, the XRV750, was produced between 1989 and 2003 and was sold mainly in Europe.  It was designed after the motorcycle that won the Dakar Rally four times and was powered by a liquid cooled V-Twin engine.  The XRV750 was not sold in the North American market, however a few were imported and are still sought after by collectors.

For some reason Honda chose not to join the Adventure Touring "club" until now.  The anticipation was that the new Africa Twin would retain the "nostalgia" of the original Africa Twin and be lighter and more "dirt" orientated than the other Adventure Touring bikes on the market.

When the specs of the bike were released, there was initial disappointment as the weight tipped the scales at 515 lbs fully loaded with fuel and at 94 hp the Africa Twin is heavy and not close to the same power output as the BMW R1200GS, the industry leader in the Adventure category.  On the positive side was the price.  Honda chose to make a motorcycle with "basic" electronics along with more basic suspension components in favor of a price that's affordable to more people.

One feature of the Africa Twin is the availability of Honda DTC, a 6 speed automatic that was introduced a few years ago in the VFR1200.  Unfortunately this option adds an additional 25 lbs to the motorcycle.

That's the information "on paper" and now for the review.

Nasty weather is good for testing

My local Honda dealer, VI Honda, finally took delivery of a demo Africa Twin for a couple of weeks and sent an email to those who had expressed interest earlier in the year.  The forecast for the day I had off was looking wet.  Fortunately the dealer was perfectly happy to let me take the bike out in the rain.  And it did rain!

This particular Africa Twin was the flat black version and it had been outfitted with protection from SW-Motech.  The tires were stock and had seen better days, which made riding in the rain "interesting".

While I'm not a fan of the gigantic exhaust pipe, it did give a great "race" sound when fired up the motorcycle.  The sound was even better once I started riding, especially on acceleration.

The first thing I noticed when I got on the Africa Twin was that I could put both feed on the ground, or at least about 3/4's on the ground, with the seat in it's highest position.  I'm 5'll" and have a short inseam so this is a good thing, especially in the off road environment.

The second thing I noticed was how small the foot pegs are.  Honda isn't the only company who insists on putting small foot pegs on Adventure bikes with KTM likely buying from the same supplier...

The third thing I noticed was home well the Africa Twin hid it's weight.  It felt much lighter than it's listed weight and it felt even lighter once I got the bike going.  As light as the bike feels, that will change if you tip it over.

The fourth thing I noticed was how much the Africa Twin felt like dirt bike instead of a tall road bike.  The narrow seat, tall bars and position of the foot begs were well thought out and will make riding off road fun.  Unfortunately I didn't get to take the bike off road to confirm this.

Besides the weight, the motorcycle critics questioned the power of Africa Twin, especially when compared to the other motorcycles in the Adventure market.  I found this engine to be impressive overall.  It's not going to win any drag races, however it has more than enough power to be comfortable on the highway and with 72 ft-lbs of torque it's fun to twist the throttle.  The best part of the engine is how strong and smooth it is.  I got into a position where I forgot to down shift before turning into a tight, steep corner in the heavy rain and the Africa Twin lugged smoothly from 1,500 RPM's in third gear.  This will be another benefit in the off road setting.

One feather I love on the Africa Twin is how easy it is to adjust the traction control, including turning it off.  It's a press of a button and can be done on the fly.  The ABS is also easy to turn off.  Press a button near the instrument cluster and it's off.

I found the highest level of traction control to be very intrusive and when it kicked in on the rain slick roads it felt like the bike had ran out of gas and the compression of the engine unsettled the motorcycle when this happened.  At that point I turned the traction control off.

Honda chose to spend time on the engine mapping and did a great job.  The engineers felt that having multiple engine maps were unnecessary and in my opinion the Africa Twin doesn't need them.

I's compare the Africa Twin to the BMW F800GS / GSA over the BMW R1200GS.  The BMW comes with top of the line components, which you'll pay more for, and yet it feels bland and sluggish compared to the Africa Twin.  The BMW is also lighter (only a little) and yet the Honda felt lighter to me.

If I had to choose between the BMW F800GS / GSA or the Honda Africa Twin, I'd take the Africa Twin.  The money I'd save would be used to "customize" the big Honda to my liking, with the foot pegs being the first change.

Africa Twin Low Points.

  • Small foot pegs.
  • The stock tires must go.
  • The intrusive traction control at the highest setting.
Africa Twin High Points.
  • It's a big dirt bike.
  • The engine.
  • The electronics are easy to turn off.
  • The price.
The Africa Twin is a motorcycle that I'd be happy to have in my garage and that may happen sooner than later...

Thank you Honda Canada and VI Honda for letting me take the Africa Twin out for the afternoon.

Gerald Trees
Dream Your Ride

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

It's been a while...

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It's been a while since I've made an entry and here's why.

I've spent the past month working my "day job" practicing optometry and the rest preparing for a return to Baja.  13 more sleeps, but who's counting.  As this trip will be more off road than pavement, a lot of preparation was made to make sure my Kawasaki KLR650 was mechanically sound and as ready as possible for anything the desert may dish out.

Off with the old...

On with the new...

Preparation included a fresh set of Continental TKC 80 tires, crash bars for the rear portion of the motorcycle and insuring all the bolts were tight.  

The other additions were "racing" stickers for the motorcycle and the new Speed & Strength SS2500 Dual Sport helmet.

Currently the motorcycles are in the trailer and will be heading to San Diego in a few days, where the Baja adventure will begin.  It will be 12 days of dirt, sun, beaches and some great food.  Many tacos de pescado will be consumed...

I'll have a full report on the trip at the end of November, with photos that I trust will make you want to head out on your own adventure.  

I'll also have a report on the Honda Africa Twin out before I leave as I finally got to take this motorcycle out for a ride.

Stay tuned for my review...

Gerald Trees
Dream Your Ride

Friday, 23 September 2016

The "Old" Spiral Highway - Old Lewiston Grade Revisited

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The "Old" Spiral Highway, also known as the Lewiston Grade is a beautiful road that rises from Lewiston, Idaho to the top of the plateau north of town.  It runs 8 miles, changes 2,000 ft in elevation and is loaded with corners.

The road was built in 1917 to accommodate the "modern" cars and trucks of the day.  It's since been replaced by US 95, a 4 lane highway.

Words are one thing, however the visual of this road captures why it's a great road to ride on a motorcycle.


The "Old" Spiral Highway from bottom to top.

Gerald Trees
Dream Your Ride

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Northwest Washington - A Great Place To Ride!

Northwest Washington State is an amazing place to ride.  There are mountain roads, coastal routes and diverse beauty.  Enjoy the photos.

Cruising through the San Juan Islands on Washington State Ferries

A beautiful day cruising the San Juan Islands

Rosario Beach

Bowman Bay, Deception Pass state Park

Deception Pass Bridge from Lottie Bay

Deception Pass Bridge looking south

Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Lodge

Snoqualmie Falls from the upper observation deck

Snoqualmie Falls from the lower river

Washington Route 410 near Mt. Rainer National Park

The view from Washington Route 410

A great riding road

Tipsoo Lake and Mt. Rainer #1

Tipsoo Lake and Mr. Rainer #2

Tipsoo Lake from the hiking trail

Washington State Route 821 along the Yakima River between Yakima and Ellensberg

The Yakima River along Washington State Route 821

US Route 97 near Ellensburg

Leavenworth, Washington

The Wenatchee River near Leavenworth

Tumwater Mountain near Leavenworth

These are some of the beautiful areas to visit while riding through Northwest Washington.  If you're wanting to do some off pavement riding, the area around Leavenworth is the place to be.

Gerald Trees
Dream Your Ride