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2015 - The Motorcycle Show Vancouver

Contributed by Trevor Marc Hughes 
All photos by Trevor Marc Hughes

It’s the scope of the displays that is most exciting. It also is what is most intimidating.

Where do you start? Will you be able to take it all in?
 

Walking into Tradex is something like seeing gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. It’s difficult not to start bounding along like an excited ten-year-old, zipping back and forth from booth to booth, hungry to find out what’s new and interesting for motorcycling in 2015.

First, my enthusiasm was curbed by the lack of something. As I approached the incredible new designs of Victory Motorcycles in the Polaris display, I discovered a distinct lack of an Indian Scout.
“There are no B.C. dealers yet,” Terry Fetter of Victoria’s Action Motorcycles explained to me.

It would seem the cost of building up sales momentum for the new Indian models is too much west of the Rockies.

“It’s just not worth displaying four Indian Scouts right now,” Fetter tells me.

It would seem it’s going to be awhile before I’ll be sitting on an Indian Scout at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show.

I tempered my disappointment with a visit to Ireland. Celtic Rider is just one of the many motorcycle touring companies at the show, a list which includes Compass Expeditions, Edelweiss Bike Travel and Renedian Adventures. I speak with Connor about who chooses to ride Ireland.

“About 95% of our clientele are women,” he tells me.

With tourism growing in Ireland, so it would seem is motorcycle touring. Each tour package comes with an “orientation” for those who are used to riding on the right side of the road.

“Riding on the left is not a big deal,” he informs me.

Further left down this great hall is a sea of orange. KTM has a display featuring what would not be the last of this sort of bike I would see at the show: the introductory motorcycle. The KTM 390 Duke looks a tight, durable little machine. And with an MSRP of $5499 and a dry weight of a little over 300 pounds, it’s an affordable bit of orange.

 
What’s new with Suzuki? Well, as one rep put it: there’s the compact GSX-S750, a streetfighter influenced by supersport models like the GSX-R750, or for the ADV crowd, there’s a revamping of the DL-650. The Suzuki V-Strom 650X features spoke wheels and a “beak” out front. Does that look like another large adventure bike we know? It comes in “Candy Daring Red” and “Metallic Mat Fibroin Grey”.

The Yamaha section is the most impressive for me, with the large red symbol hanging from the ceiling. What’s also red, and new, is a YZF-R3. I watch as several nervous young lady visitors try to straddle it. And I think that’s what Yamaha may be thinking with this new lightweight sportbike: find the new and upcoming riders. It looks like an R6, but the 321cc engine will be easier to handle for those just being introduced to motorcycling.


I speak with Clinton Smout, who writes a column for Motorcycle Mojo and appears on “Motorcycle Experience” with Dave Hatch, as we both eye the R3. He tells me his eighteen-year-old son is entering the motorcycling market and if he is thinking about getting an R6, he would tell him to think twice and consider an R3. Good fatherly advice there. At an MSRP of $4999 the R3’s a little easier on a young adult’s budget too. He points over to the new ADV option from Yamaha, the FJ-09, billed as a sport-touring model taking after the FZ-09. It’s not an off-road capable bike, but it certainly seems Yamaha’s trying to corner the ADV lifestyle market with this one.



Harley-Davidson dominates much of one end of a hall, but its bikes are looking smaller. The introduction of Street 500 and 750 models seems to indicate that the iconic American manufacturer is trying to corner that beginning motorcyclist market too. Over to the right, the Tron-like whir of an electric motorcycle can be heard. This is not a light-cycle. It’s a visitor trying out Project Livewire, a surprising new initiative, but still only in the late prototype stage. But it’ll be interesting to see
what is developed in an electric bike model for the motorcycle market to be seen at next year’s show.




Of course there are many other bikes to mention: Ducati’s 821cc slimmed down and much more affordable Monster, the increasingly “rough road capable” Honda  CB500X looking to rival other sport touring models in its class, the more rider-friendly yet torquey BMW S1000RR, and, of course, the eagerly anticipated Kawasaki Ninja H2, cordoned off behind restraint straps as though its 1000cc supercharged engine is about to break free from its cage.





These are all impressive. But I choose to round off my visit to the 2015 Vancouver Motorcycle Show by meeting some of the adventurers that take motorcycles to their limits, live to tell the tale and write about it. Jeremy Kroeker wrote “Motorcycle Therapy”, a true story about his adventure on a KLR650 into Central America. His new book “Through Dust And Darkness” has done well critically. He tells me it’s not easy being an author, but he’s happy for the success of the latest book, which chronicles his motorcycle travels through the Middle East. A down-to-earth guy, he signs a copy for me on the spot.


 
Just as I’m about to leave, closing warnings booming over the loudspeakers, I see Rene Cormier. I met him the year before. His book “The University of Gravel Roads” is one of the best motorcycling circumnavigation tales I’ve read and now he heads Renedian Adventures, his own company that launches motorcycle expeditions all over southwest Africa. He spends half the year in Canada, the rest in Africa. He always has a smile and a handshake, and is someone I think would be great
company while traveling by motorcycle.

 
So, if I were to find overall themes that emerge from this year’s show, they’d have to be a trend towards manufacturers seeking to dominate the beginner motorcyclist market and continued growth, and fusing styles, in adventure motorcycles. Next year though, electric motorcycles, and the discussion they create, could be more of a focus. The show sure does what it’s billed to do though…make me excited for the upcoming riding season.

Links:

The Motorcycle Show Vancouver - http://www.vancouvermotorcycleshow.ca/
Renedian Adventures - http://www.renedian.com/
Jeremy Kroeker - http://www.motorcycletherapy.com/



New Trends in Motorcycling – Automatics!

It’s time for a major change in motorcycling.  

Really?  How many times have you heard that one. It’s interesting – over the years, motorcycles have experienced some amazing technological advances – ABS, Traction Control, Ride-by-Wire, Active Suspensions…even specialized protective gear. All of these technologies are aimed at providing extra safety for our riding pleasure. They’re all good.



Ridley Auto-Glide

But what technologies and inventions have you seen that make biking easier? Well, you might say, today’s advanced bikes are better balanced than yesteryear’s – and you’d be right. But I really mean ‘easier’.

- Easier to learn to ride, easier to ride, easier to cruise.
- Easier for novices and aged drivers alike.
- Easier for those who have never used a clutch.
- Easier for those who’ve never been exposed to the bare-bones riding elements, as we have.

Ergonomically? With changes in hand controls, brakes, electronic ride controls? Nothing.  
Oh, wait a minute!  Everything!!

Some manufacturers have made shiftless bikes – automatic or shift-free bikes using CVT transmissions. Great news!

And how have Canadians fared in this area?  Horribly. 

I wonder why. To start with, Canadians are getting older… here are some facts: 1 in 5 Canadians are now aged 65+, and by 2013, that will be 1 in 4*1. In fact, back in 2012, 21 per cent of Canadians were over the age of 60. By 2030, that proportion is projected to rise to about 28.5 per cent, and by 2050, 31 per cent — nearly a third of all Canadians*2. When these seniors want to continue motorcycling (with arthritis), it’s only a matter of time until their hands and feet find shifting tougher and tougher. Here’s another example, having nothing to do with age - You want to ride with your friend or spouse or mistress (good for you!), but he or she doesn’t want to learn how to use a clutch. Do you just give up, or get your friend or partner a scooter?

Well, you’ve seen my articles on next-gen scooters and how great they are, that’s one way to go.  But, some bikers only want motorcycles – and who can blame them for all they offer?  So, if you chose motorcycles, you now have 2 choices - ‘automatic’ (gas) motorcycles, or electric ones.

Automatic motorcycles aren’t new. Honda had introduced them some years ago, but because the bike was expensive and improperly weighted, it wasn’t a runaway success.  Either was the Aprilia Mana, or the Ridley Auto-Glide.  That’s too bad, as that early lack of success ruined the path for Honda’s revolutionary CTX-700N DCT model in Canada. Automatic motorcycles look, handle, and are as powerful as the motorcycles we’ve been used to. But when it comes to shifting, they use a CVT-like transmission, allowing the rider to concentrate on other biking essentials, such as balance, monitoring traffic and road conditions. Only upon very close inspection would anyone realize your motorcycle is shift-less.


Aprilia 850 Mana


Honda’s CTX-700N DCT

So, what choices do you have if you want an ‘automatic’ motorcycle in Canada?  Well, this is where the short-sightedness of various manufacturers has let us down.  It’s not news that Canada poses an issue to vehicle manufacturers – because of our unique vehicle regulations and inordinate taxes, we often get the dregs of their vehicles.  For instance, I had a MazdaSpeed 3 (great car!) and I didn’t get anywhere close to the interior goodies that Americans got - for a far higher price. The same principle applies to motorcycles. So, that’s one reason why we don’t get the same varied bike selection as our fellow Americans. The other reason is Canadian marketers – far fewer vehicles are sold in Canada, so analytically obsessed marketers must be sure those sales will occur. As a result, while American Honda dealers are seeing resurgence in DCT automatic motorcycle sales, we don’t even get the choice of being able to buy one. You can always buy one in the U.S. (this is OK with Transport Canada’s rulings), but you’d need to check with Honda Canada if you can transfer warranty. Regardless, you’ll pay a fortune in extra taxes & transportation.

Back to Honda – they’re way ahead of the crowd with the CTX-700N DCT. The ½ Honda Fit power-plant’s low-slung’s centre of gravity makes riding and balancing this bike easy, especially for beginners. All controls are within easy reach and quite ergonomic – sit on one and you’ll know what I mean. Its suspension is competent; its street manners are near-perfect. By no stretch of the imagination is this a street rocket, but it’s not meant to be. Pricing is within just about every biker’s reach. This is a thoroughly modern bike line, so kudos goes out to Honda for their foresight. But… we Canadians don’t get to celebrate. And Honda wonders why the standard (ie shift) models in Canada are selling fine, but not wildly! Honda – you came so close – but no cigar for your Canadian market managers.
Suzuki used to have an automatic model, the 1982 model 450, but discontinued that a long time ago, and Honda had a 2-speed model also – they were way too early for the world to embrace them.  The other well-known Japanese manufacturers (Kawasaki, Yamaha) have shown little interest in getting to this market area, but if they watch the world markets, they should.  



Brammo


Zero S

Now, onto electric bikes. Yup, you’re going to pay a premium for ‘going green’, but you have a few choices – Brammo or Zero. These belong more to the crotch-rockets than cruiser type, but they can still do the job.  Watch out for any range-anxiety long-distance trips, but for cruising around your neighborhoods, they’re quick, effortlessly powerful, and…wait for it… ridiculously quiet. In a way, they’re safer than any other type of bike, as you can literally hear all the traffic around you.  The problem is – they can’t hear you. So, now you have a dilemma, in deciding if you want a Harley-type noise-maker rattling your brain, or a quiet-as-a-green-forest glider that those 4-wheeler drivers can’t hear. The unfortunate part of this decision is that you’re not looking at any high-volume motorcycle manufacturer, nor are you looking at any firm with head offices in Canada – so getting parts will probably be lengthier and pricier than normal. But, they’re electric, clean, reliable, and … so cool!  These 2-wheeled versions of Teslas will attract any crowd – they may be the ultimate ‘pick-up’ bikes!
Again, Canadians lose out, unless you find that the ‘electrics’ are becoming more prevalent and well-supported closer to home.  When was the last time you saw one on the streets?

Regardless of your choice, every motorcycle maker should be trying to increase their market breadth and reach, and realizing world demographics and aging and those growing wants and needs, going automatic is the fastest way. Hopefully, they’re listening, for both their financial rewards, and our biking enjoyment into our golden years. In Canada.

*1: Canada GDP Growth, Standard Of Living Could Take A 20 Per Cent Hit From Aging, Says BoC; Posted: 04/ 4/2012 6:01 pm Updated: 04/ 5/2012 8:42 am

*2: CBC - How Well Is Canada Dealing With Its Aging Population?  October 1, 2013


2011 Atlantic Motorcycle And ATV show slideshow

The 2011 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show looked like a successful one to my eyes.  It was a little quiet on Friday but then most people are still at work after all.  On Saturday the Moncton Coliseum was a busy place with tons of men, women, and children of all ages checking out all the latest motorcycles and getting some deals on motorcycle gear.

There was excellent manufacturer representation and a few surprises too.  Royal Enfield Canada had a display and several bikes. MV Agusta Canada was there too.  We had a chat with the guys at the MV booth.  If you want an MV Agusta you'd better act fast.  They're only bringing in around a hundred to Canada this year. You can buy one by going to their website and reserving one.  A big deposit should help smooth things along as well. Their eventual plan is to work on establishing a dealer network but for now the bikes are being distributed by Motovan.

As usual Clinton Smout was there offering kids free 30 minute lessons. He runs Canadian Motorcycle Training Services (CMTS in Ontario and has introduced tens of thousands of people to motorcycling.   A super nice guy who always seems to have a smile on his face I might add.  Good on Yamaha for supporting him.  This summer he's going to be adding some on-road training at Horseshoe Valley Resort. They can even deliver the licensing exam at the end of the training.  Nice!

Another interesting person at the show was Rene Cormier - author of "The University of Gravel Roads" was there.  He's an infectiously avid adventurer with a 5 year around the world (154,000 km'!) trip under his belt; he now offers motorcycle tours in Africa. We'll be reading his book and offering some insight on it soon.  But having thumbed through it already... I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it. Check out his site and his book - HERE.  After a short chat with him I'm ready to start saving my pennies for a trip to Africa.

Some other standouts in terms of motorcycles would be the Honda CBR 250R. I predict it'll be a big seller.  Fit and finish is excellent and it looks more expensive than it is.  250cc is big enough that it's capable of handling any Canadian road or highway with ease.  Having it built in Thailand and offering it as a global bike has allowed Honda to get the pricing right too. It undercuts the MSRP of the Kawasaki 250R by $500. The Kawasaki 250R is $4,999 while the CBR 250R is $4,499 without ABS or you get it with ABS for $4,999.  Yup, ABS - for $500.  Smart move by Honda to offer that on this class of motorcycle. If you're in the market for a 250 you could also look at the Suzuki TU250 - a classically styled single which is said to have a MSRP of  $5,299. Might want to re-think that price point Suzuki. I don't see them flying out the door at that price.

The guys from Atlantic Motoplex had a big presence at the show with five brands under their banner they were busy.  Of particular interest to me were some of the Triumphs - the new 800cc adventure model to be exact. They weren't sure it was going to arrive in time for the show.  Well, it did; albeit without any brochures but it looks a lot like a BMW F800 GS. Except a little cheaper we're told and with more power than the beemer.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Ducati had a Diavel Carbon there which is their new muscle cruiser for lack of a better category of description. I have to say, I'm a bit surprised that when I sat on it, it feels pretty good.  The airbox is massive and creates a really imposing front end.  There's some really cool touches such as retractable passenger pegs that when not in use tuck away out of sight. Given the power this bike has and the weight advantage it's got over other cruisers its size this should be an exciting bike.

And now - on to the pictures.  We'll be adding more soon so do check back!


Honda CBR 250R pricing released

We hear from a reliable source that Honda Canada has just released pricing on the new to Canada CBR 250R.

Expect to pay $4,499.00 for the non ABS model. The ABS model is $4,999.00 plus frt/pdi.

Units will be available sometime in the spring of 2011. The CBR250R comes with a newly-developed liquid-cooled, 250cc, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, single-cylinder engine and styling is reminiscent of the VFR1200.

Specifications:


Engine: 249cc, single cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC
Fuel System: PGM FI
Transmission:Six-speed
Final drive:Sealed chain
Wheelbase:1,370mm
Rake (Caster Angle):25.0°
Seat Height:780mm
Fuel Capacity: 13 litres
Brakes: Front: 296mm Disc
Rear: 220mm Disc
Tires:
Front: 110/70 – 17
Rear: 140/70 – 17
Curb weight: 161, 165kg(ABS)
Colour: Red/Silver, Black

Atlantic Motorsport Park - 2010 Parts Canada Superbike!

Atlantic Roadracing League was host to the Rounds 6 and 7 of the 2010 Parts Canada Superbike races this August 5-8, 2010.  We were there last year and certainly didn't want to miss the action again this year.  It seemed that the crowds were a little thinner than last year but that just made for a better spot on the concrete  wall for me!

The weather was beautiful and sunny - warm - but not quite as warm as last year. That's a good thing - it was sweltering last year. This year I got to test out my new camera.  Now the photo's should come with GPS coordinates built in to the photo EXIF data.  Pretty cool.

Not nearly as cool as the racing though.  If you haven't been out to a race - you really should go check it out.  You will truly be amazed at the speed.  They hit 190 KM/HR + at points on the track.  It's a pretty impressive thing to see!

This was the first time I got to see the BMW S1000RR in action and it didn't disappoint; BMW took two of the top three spots on the podium. Amazing bikes!

We took plenty of shots of the motorcycles in the pits, and on the main stretch, not to mention some of the spectator's rides.  Plenty of bikes to be seen.



Some people we'd like to draw special attention to at the race - Colin at www.MadFab.ca.  He fabricates some really trick bike parts and tools right here in Nova Scotia.  His presence could be seen all over the place at the races.  Even on some racer bikes - like Todd Scott's. If you're looking for somebody to do some fabrication for you, or do crash repairs.  Look no further.  Colin knows his stuff!

I also took a few short video's that you can check out here:

Nice corner transition in this one -





Other stuff:

If you like these photo's and would like to publish or purchase higher resolution copies - let me know.  If you want to check out the camera used to take these photo's - take a look at this link:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black)

2010 Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV Show - A pictorial

This year marked the third year for the Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV show in Moncton. Produced by Master Promotion, owned by the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council (MMIC) and Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council (COHV) - the event appeared to be the popular spot for motorcycle enthusiasts to be in Moncton the weekend of Feb 12-14, 2010.

I haven't heard about the numbers that came through but there were roughly 15,000 last year. I don't know that it was quite as busy as last year but if you're a fan of motorcycles you wouldn't have minded - it just meant it was a little easier to get through the crowds and there'd be a better chance you'd get to sit on a few more bikes.

Most of the big manufacturers were there showing off their newest 2010 models.  There were a few standout bikes for me; notably the new Honda VFR1200, the BMW S1000RR, a Ducati 1198R, and Patrick Trahan's Dakar prepped Honda.

We took a few photo's and thought we'd share.  More content about the show is coming soon.


Trail Tours - Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest

Trail Tours Adventures
- Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest


I'm in Ontario, it's vacation, and I'm up at 6 am. What's wrong with this picture? Nothing at all actually - The early starts is so that I make sure I find my way to Trail Tours; an off-road motorcycle school on the edge of the 11,000 acre Ganaraska forest. This off-road haven is just 20 minutes outside of Peterborough and approximately an hour from where I'm staying in Scarborough. Given my notoriously terrible sense of direction I want to give myself plenty of extra time. There's also the unknown of traffic seeing that's it's Friday and still a workday for most.

7 am - time to hit the road on my borrowed 09 Harley Davidson Fat Bob and get to the highway. Once I hit the road I'm pleased to discover that most of the traffic is coming in the opposite direction and I'm able to motor along at a steady pace. It's also very easy to get to the highway and I don't get lost. Bonus!

Just to skip the chase a little I'll say that Trail Tours is an off-road motorcycle and ATV school - with prices starting at $225 dollars you'll get outfitted in protective gear, get a dirt bike (or ATV), some training, and a have a guide and sweep rider for about 4 hours. That my friends is a great deal! Consider the expense of equipping yourself up for an off-road experience and do the math. It's a heck of a bargain.

The weather's been reasonably good the past few days but warm, and with the heat seems to also come the ever-present threat of thunderstorms and showers. We'd had some rain on Thursday which unbeknownst to me at this point would make for ideal conditions for my day in the woods on Friday - plenty of traction and no dust. Before I arrive at Trail Tours I stop at a gas station to check my directions - I'm a bit early anyway. I spot a nice KTM loaded on a trailer and take a seat on the curb close by. I figure that chances are good that its owner may be going to the same place as me. Turns out I was right - as I started up a conversation with Pat Steed and he's not only going to Trail Tours, he's going to be a sweep rider for the group I end up riding with that day. On top of it he's says that Trail Tours is very close to where we are now, and that I can just follow him in. This day is starting out on a good note for sure!

I ride up the dirt road and we come out in a small clearing at the edge of the forest overlooking a big field with a dirt track. There's some some truck trailers and a portable which serve as the on-site base of operations for Trail Tours. There's also a whole lot of dirt bikes and four wheelers. I can feel the adrenaline start surging with excitement. Oh, yes - this is going to be fun!

After parking the bike I start looking around and checking out the dirt bikes. I chat with Allan, who's been working with Trail Tours for the past 12 years, since he was 14 years old in fact. I also get a chance to talk to the owner, Steve WeyKamp. He's expecting a new addition to the family so, on this day he won't be riding with us, but I enjoy talking with him and he's obviously a great guy who's enthusiastic about what he does.

There's a small group today but I'm told that there's typically anywhere between 20 and 50 riders on a given day. A significant percentage of people who come to Trail Tours are first time riders. Corporate team-building groups are pretty common at Trail Tours too. Most of the people in our group have some road experience on a motorcycle but a minimal amount of dirt bike experience. Trail Tours have the terrain and machinery to accommodate ALL skill levels; from novice to expert.

Time to get the party started!

Everybody gets suited up in the supplied gear; boots, knee protectors, chest and elbow protectors, jersey, goggles, and gloves. There's a discussion of skill level; and whether you've ridden a motorcycle before too. This helps the instructors to group riders with those of a similar skill level.

Steve starts the day off by talking about what's in store for the day, giving the obligatory disclaimers, and a little promotion and thanks to all their sponsors. They're manufacturer supported and get new bikes regularly. The bike I end up on is a Honda CFR 230F. It's a nice air-cooled, single cylinder, 4-stroke mount that's both reliable and just the right size for navigating the trails of the Ganaraska. Sign in starts at 9 am, while the riding starts at 9 am and ends at 3 pm. That's plenty - believe me - it's enough time that you feel that you've gotten your money's worth but not so much that you've ridden beyond the point of extreme fatigue. If you're fatigued, that's when you'll start to make a lot of mistakes. You'll be sleeping fine after a day at Trail Tours. There's a break at noon for lunch (which is typically catered but we end up having some subs and sodas from a nearby sub shop). There's potable water available at the base camp too and you can grab a drink there or fill up a hydration system for the trails.

We start the day of riding off by gathering in field where they've got a circular track set up. An instructor tells us about proper stance on the bike for the various types of terrain we'll encounter. Standing up on the pegs is a typical position that helps you go over rough ground with ease. Through slippery corners, sit down and put your inside leg towards the front of the bike to get your weight forward. We also talk about small objects on the trail like logs, roots, and off-camber terrain and how to deal with them. The instructor watches us as we ride around the track and offers some each of us some personalized tips and advice.

We progress from that to riding, one-by-one, over a small log. We're given tips on throttle control, gearing, and looking ahead. Once we seem to have the basics under control and the instructors are confident - it's off to the woods. There's still some instruction to happen yet though, we practice our straight line braking. First with just the back brake, then with the front brake only, then with the front and rear combined. Stops are long and skids plentiful when using just the back. With the front it's easy to have the front wheel slide out but distances are reduced. Braking with the front and rear combined result in the quickest and most stable stops.

Once we've all given that a shot a few times it's time to practice whoops! Whoops are a series of bumps that are a lot like stationary and rounded waves. That doesn't sound overly fun inducing, but you'll have to believe me - it is definitely a good time! On a high-end and powerful bike such as the KTM the lead instructor was riding you kind of float over the whoops a bit. On our smaller bikes, which have less power and less suspension travel, the bike drops into the whoops a little more. We're told it's best to keep the throttle even throughout the whoop. It does sound like you're getting on the gas a bit harder when the suspension is uncompressed but it's not the case really. Standing is definitely the way to go if you want to have any speed.

Now that we've done a few loops of whoops it's time for the really fun stuff - it's time to be unleashed in the forest! One more quick lesson though - we're told that we'll cross many junctions while riding and it's each person's responsibility to take a quick look back at each junction to see if they can see the person riding behind them; if not, they're to stop at the junction so that the group stays together. If each person does this it saves the lead rider from having to stop the group, double back, and try to find the rest of the group. With hundreds of interconnected trails it can be difficult and time consuming so best to heed the significance of this advice. You'll spend more time riding the trail and less time sitting on it waiting if you do.

On to the good stuff:

The grin on my face is permanently ingrained at this point. I thought the good times had perhaps plateaued, that was before I experienced my first sandy berm. I now know that there are few things as enjoyable as hitting a sandy berm - inside foot extended forward (cranking on the throttle to induce plenty of wheel-spin) and sliding through a corner. I actually let out several "Yeahhhhh's" during these blissful maneuvers. Probably the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle. I know that I'll return to Trail Tours now that my brain has triggered the endorphin rush that sandy berms provide. I must experience it again!

The Ganaraska forest is huge and the trails are ever-changing - a beaver had blocked our path with his new home at one point during the ride, but these guys know their way around the forest so well it's no issue; they just find another way around. It's shared terrain too and we come across a few other riders, and even a couple people on horseback. The fact that the trails are shared makes it important to pay attention and keep your eyes up, particularly when approaching corners or blind crests. We're told to try to stick to the right hand side of trails and be aware of other users. Good advice.

We ride on some 'easier' terrain in the morning. But after lunch we get into some more difficult and speedy terrain. There's plenty of challenges. There's sandy sections, puddles, mud holes, uphills, downhills, twists and turns, rocks, wide trails, and tough single track that you can just fit your handlebars between the trees. There's no pressure to ride above your limits but if you're quick you'll probably gravitate towards the front. There's no passing and riding is single file but each person gets a chance to take the lead should they want to give it a try.

Another really fun point in the day was a hill climb. Along the route we've taken we come across a relatively steep and sandy hill and we line up and take a shot at getting to the top. It's a bit tougher than it seems and the bike kicks up a huge rooster tail of sand in its wake. The bike floats around in the loose sand. If you look to the sides of the trail, chances are you'll end up there and have to turn around and ride back down for another attempt. Much to my disappointment I didn't make it my first try. I up-shifted near the top of the hill and lost a little momentum, then the front wheel caught a bit of sand and I climbed the bank at the side of the hill and set the bike down gently on its side. Darn! Mere feet from the summit! My next few attempts were successful though. Triumph! It was a really great feeling to get to the top. I experimented with starting in second at the base of the hill and the differences between standing and sitting.

Everybody took a few shots at the hill and most were able to get at least one successful run. It was a little more challenging on the 150cc bikes for sure. Those guys seemed to have a harder time with it.

After a bit more riding around it was starting to become clear that some of us were getting a little tired but we were on our way back to the base camp at this point so we just had to keep our wits about us for a little bit longer. Bikes were dropped and some minor spills occurred but nobody in our group got injured and all the equipment came home in working order too.

When we arrived back at base camp we lined up to be hosed down with the pressure washer. Bikes first - then us! Well, our muddy boots at least. We got the rest of our gear off and returned it to the Trail Tours folks. They take the gear and clean it up on site or send the equipment home for a more thorough cleaning. After it's all cleaned up the gear is put back for the next group of excited adventurers who'd arrive bright and early the next day. We share a few stories about the day and everybody seems to have had a great time and perhaps a little tired from an intense day of riding.

I'll be back!

Without a doubt, my day at Trail Tours was one of the most enjoyable days I've had on a motorcycle. I had a smile on my face from the moment I pulled into the parking lot to the time I left. The instructors were professional and informative, the equipment was well maintained and skill level appropriate, and the terrain is fantastic! Trail Tours and the Ganaraska forest is a short drive for millions of people. They're surely undiscovered gems for most - seriously, what are you waiting for?

Get yourself to Trail Tours - Pronto!

Check out the Trail Tours website HERE.

Here's a slideshow with all the pictures we took. Special thanks to Pat Steed who took the photo's of me. Pat and his wife own and operate Pat's Dual Sport Retreat.





The Honda Varadero Review - Well Sort of...

Honda recently announced that they would be bringing the Honda Varadero to Canada in 2008. The Varadero is not a new bike - it's just new to Canada. The Varadero first appeared on the roads of Europe in 1999. So far it's not coming to the US. Some are saying it's to give the Canadian Dealers something that the US guys can't offer, making it a little more tempting for Canadian's to shop on this side of the border (It might also get some US folks interested in coming up north!). Since it's not here yet we had to look to information about the bike from other parts of the world in order to give you a preview of what's to come. So based on that information and an assumption we'll get the same spec bike here's a review of the basics:

First up - the Varadero is a BIG adventure tourer styled bike with a liquid cooled and fuel injected 996 cc 90 degree V-Twin (4-stroke 8- valve). You won't have any trouble keeping up traffic with this big v-twin with right around 95 hp. You might have guessed it has 6 gears, and you'd be right; and it's got an o-ring sealed chain for the final drive.

I've seen seat heights from 838mm to 845mm -the official word from the Honda UK site is that it's 838. You'll have 181 mm of ground clearance should you decide you want to take it off the pavement. The tank will take up to 25 litres (that's 3 more than the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 or 650). When you get down to 4 litres remaining the warning light reserve comes on. Some reviews suggest that the Varadero is a little thirsty though so you might have to stop for gas a little sooner than you might expect; particularly with a lot of city or aggressive driving.

Dry weight is listed at 244.2 kg (incidentally - I've read slightly lower dry weight's in reviews so it might be best to reserve judgement until official news comes from Honda Canada). The V-Strom 1000 is 207 kg. That's a whopping 72+ lbs of pudge that the 2007 UK spec Varadero has over the V-Strom. Rider reviews seem to indicate the bike is big but still feels much more nimble than its weight might indicate.


The wheels are hollow-section triple-spoke cast aluminum suggesting that its got a street bias and isn't intended to be taken too far off-road. 110/80 tire's in the front and 150/70's in the rear. Front suspension in a 43mm telescopic fork with 155 mm of axle travel. In the rear you get a pro-link damper with 40-step spring preload (and stepless rebound damping) adjustment, 145mm axle travel. For brakes - ABS front and back; 296 x 4.5 mm dual hydraulic disc in the front and 256 x 5mm hydraulic disc in the back. Both have combined 3-piston calipers and sintered metal pads.

Touring should be a comfortable affair on the Varadero though and it can be fitted with factory accessory bags. It's got a well padded seat and a tall windscreen to keep you comfy on those long journeys and to protect you from the elements.

Haven’t seen any pricing information yet but it should come in close to the Suzuki V-Strom 1000. If you take the price of the 2007 Varadero from the Honda UK site; a direct conversion would equate to roughly $14,460 CDN. The MSRP on a 2008 V-Strom 1000 (no ABS) is listed at $11,999.

Edit (Feb 18/08): An astute reader indicated a slight flaw in the direct conversion (speculative) pricing we've published. "European prices include the tax already. The £7,299.00 quoted on the Honda site includes 17.5% tax, therefore the before tax value of the bike is about £6211+ change and equates to roughly C$12,200.00 @ 1.97 exchange rate. Which is spot on with the V-Strom pricing." I'm sure many are hoping for this type of price in Canada. Keep your fingers crossed! Thanks for the comments Chris.

If you search online forums and listen to motorcycle podcasts you'll see/hear grumbling about Honda and how their lineup hasn't really shown much in the way of innovation or listening to the wish lists of customers (a lighter - more powerful VFR800 for example). Some say that bringing a bike to Canada that's been around since 1999 is another sign of that lack of vision. Say what you want, but Honda has built a reputation of making reliable machines and there will be buyers for the Varadero. The bike has a solid reputation and for those looking for a big comfortable touring bike this one is worth checking out.

Edit (March 22/08): Pricing information for the Honda Varadero in Canada was released on Friday March 21 in a newsletter to people who subscribed on the Honda Canada website. It'll have a base MSRP of $13,999.

Manufacturer Website:
Honda