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Destination: Cabot Trail - Nova Scotia

It's the cusp of Fall and I've got a few days off - the forecast is calling for good weather for the next few days. Road Trip! 1023 KM's as it turned out.

With my tail bag packed with the essentials it's time to hit the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail has been on my list of "must do" rides since I moved back to Halifax three years ago. With no set plan or reservations I set out early on a late September morning. The weather is beautiful if not a little cool. Time for some adventure and relaxation.


The Cabot Trail is an approximately 300 KM loop that takes you along the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, passing along and through the scenic Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It has been named one of the most scenic drives in Canada the reasons for which will be clear after you've ridden it. It is spectacular. It's no wonder that Alexander Graham Bell made Cape Breton his home.

If you're riding from mainland Nova Scotia - you're going to be accessing the Cabot Trail from the mainland via the Canso Causeway and heading towards Whycocomagh - a First Nations community whose name roughly translates to 'Head of the Waters' because of its placement on an arm of the impressive Bras d'Or Lake (designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2011).

I had a vague plan to do a counter clockwise run so that I'd be in the outside lane the whole time but I thought I'd just play it by ear and see how I felt as I got really close. After a stop in Whycocomagh for a coffee and some lunch and a chat with some fellow bikers I ended up at the Big Red Barn (the entrance of the trail for a clock-wise run).

The Big Red Barn is the landmark you're going to be looking for as the first entrance of the trail. The trail is marked very well so you can't miss it anyway. It was late afternoon and I decided to continue on because I knew there were lots of places to stay along the western coast (and wasn't sure about the eastern coast) and by starting my ride around today I would have more time to explore the next day.





The views along the western shore are tough to beat. The first glimpses of the ocean are where I really started to get excited, yet relaxed at the same time. What could be better than riding in the sun, on a fantastic strip of road with the ocean by your side with the smell and sounds of the ocean permeating your senses. All these sensations together and you can't help but feel happy to be alive and in this place.



Things start to get really fun when you hit Margaree Harbour. Yes, hello Ocean! It also puts you firmly in French communities that dot the coast. The beautiful Cheticamp is where I ended up staying over night. I found a little Bed and Breakfast along the road that included a breakfast. It was clean and VERY quiet and pretty economical. Around $70 + tax. I settled into my spot in the early evening and decided that I'd go get a bite to eat for supper. Some local seafood fit the bill nicely at a restaurant overlooking the Cheticamp harbour. There's also a Tim Horton's in Cheticamp which I visited that evening for a coffee. It was a busy spot - seems like everybody in town was there, chit-chatting away in French as I sipped my coffee and imagined what they were talking about. I slept good that night. Up early the next morning to get on the road and enjoy the day.



One thing you really should pay attention to when riding the trail is the posted speed limits, particularly on sharp curves. Those limits aren't suggestions. They may save you from a really nasty experience. Slow down to the posted speed, even if you are an expert rider. The curves are sharp, the grades are steep, and other drivers may be distracted by the scenery or taking turns too quickly themselves. Then there is the distinct possibility that a truck or motor home may have kicked some gravel on the road.



Since I'm doing my ride late in the season and during what is for most - work days; I have the roads mostly to myself except for the construction workers that is. Construction - there was LOTS of it going on. They were digging out the ditches and performing some much needed maintenance. There were long stretches of this construction going on throughout the trail and I had pretty regular stops. Some of them felt rather long too - 15-20 minutes in some cases. Luckily I wasn't in a hurry.



One tip I had gotten was to make sure that I took the road to White Point at the North Eastern tip of the ride. It takes you on a more scenic route with ocean ocean views for a little stretch of the trail rather than the slightly more inland route. Definitely worth the slight diversion!

It makes a great overnight trip from the city but might be even nicer if you take another day or two and take in a few of the fantastic hiking trails that dot the Cabot Trail. Next time maybe I'll go clockwise!


Test Ride: 2011 Zero S (electric)

When a local dealership (Freedom Cycle) decided to become the exclusive Nova Scotia dealer for Zero electric motorcycles I was lucky enough to be offered a demo ride to see what I thought of it.




Having been a follower of the Zero brand for a number of years and a guy who likes gadgets Zero motorcycles have appealed to me on many levels from the very first time I heard about them. My early feelings about electric bikes were that electric motorcycle technology needed a little time to advance before it became mainstream but that the technology makes a lot of sense. Frankly though - the early efforts seemed a little too expensive given the range, quality, and thrill factor.

 Plus there was the risk that you'd buy this new technology and the next year some technology leap would occur and you'd be stuck with a serious case of buyer's remorse. Could 2012 be the tipping point for electric motorcycles?

There's no way I'd be willing to give up my internal combustion engine sport touring 800cc VFR could I? The thought wouldn't have crossed my mind - not until now at least. For 2012 Zero have made some huge improvements that will certainly attract plenty of NEW riders to the fold - the big question is; will it be enough to make some existing riders ditch their gasoline powered motorcycles and go electric?



The Zero S that I rode was actually a 2011 model; the ride approximately 23 kilometers of city and highway with lots of elevation changes and corners. The bike was new and the battery still being broken in. "Make sure you only take the battery down to half." - No problem!

 A limited distance test ride to be sure but long enough for some initial impressions.

It was a bright and sunny Friday in Halifax - but the weather was very cool. The gauge on my motorcycle was telling me it was ranging between 0 - 5° Celsius out. I wasn't sure how that might affect range but experience would be the the only way to judge that. 

The first thing that strikes you when you sit on the Zero is that it "feels" like a motorcycle. You can't compare the Zero to an electric pass through seating scooter you see struggling to keep forward momentum at the slightest incline. No, this is altogether different - it's a serious machine. If you ride a motorcycle or have ridden a bicycle this is the position you're accustomed to. Seating is upright and the bars are wide, putting you in what I'd consider a very "open" body position. If it's windy out and you don't have an optional windscreen it's getting you in the chest. Personal preference would dictate whether you'll enjoy that or not. I thought it was great. 


I got the feeling I was sitting on top of the motorcycle more than "in it" and that's a sensation enhanced by the flat motocross like seat. There's no indentation in the seat so you and have nothing to feel how far back you are when you push back from seat. There's also no gas tank hump because it's all electric of course!

Another thing you can't help but notice is the silence. Complete and total silence! When it's running and you're stationary the Zero makes no noise whatsoever. The only indication you have that it's on and ready to roll is a big green light on the dash. No rumbling vibration, no blipping the throttle in neutral to hear the raucous exhaust note. Nothing! That will take some getting used to but it's nice too. Electric bikes are fun too - they're just different.

Top speed that I attained was 71 MPH (110 km/h) uphill and a little faster downhill. It's claimed the 2012 model is a bit faster and can reach a top speed of 88 mph (140 km/h) or 75 mph (120 km/h) sustained speed.

 The Zero feels lightweight and nimble - definitely a fine tool for an urban environment. I almost felt like I was riding a bicycle, albeit a very speedy one that I didn't have to pedal. I had to consciously remind myself on several occasions that shouldn't act like I might on a bicycle.

The fact that the 2011 model has no clutch and no engine braking is a bit of a different feeling but one you quickly adjust to. You need to use the brakes a little more than you might on an internal combustion engine machine because of the lack of engine braking. In 2012 the bikes will include regenerative braking which will help deliver a little power back to the battery and provide a bit of engine braking feel.

2012 has brought forth significant enhancements that may very well prove to be a tipping point in the popularity of electric motorcycles. The improvements are so significant that Freedom Cycles ordered a single 2011 model to be used as a demo and will begin stocking the dealership with 2012's. 

The S and DS models have a new brushless PMAC (permanent magnet alternating current) motor which replaces the brushed motors of previous years. The battery packs have dramatically increased capacity - moving from a 4.2 kWh cell pack to the standard 6 kWh or optional 9 kWh. New controllers more effectively manage the engine and regenerative braking has increased range to a very respectable 114 miles (183 km's). Performance is significantly better too; max torque is WAY up and that translates to quicker acceleration and more entertaining riding - and more of it per charge. 



There's a quick charge optional feature too for the S and DS. For the Zero S and Zero DS, the first "2x" quick-charge accessory adds a charger that plugs into its second charge circuit (the onboard charger is plugged into the first). It's a $595 option but takes the charge time for the 6 kWh and 9kWh models from 6 and 9 hours to 3 and 4.9 hours respectively.

So getting back to my question - Could 2012 be the tipping point for electric motorcycles? I think it may be. There's definitely some exciting things happening in the electric motorcycle world and 2012 could very well be the year that people really start to see electric bikes become more accepted and mainstream.

KEY FACTS

S ZF6 (6 kWh battery)

MSRP $11,495
City range: 122 km
highway range: 69 km
Charge time: 6 hours
Weight: 297 lbs

S ZF9 (9 kWh battery)

MSRP $13,995
City range: 183 km
highway range: 101 km
Charge time: 9 hoursWeight: 341 lbs

PROS:



- No gas to buy - ever!

- No chain to oil
- Limited maintenance required

- Sufficient range for commuters and casual riders

- Incredible equivalent fuel economy:  
 -- 2012 model is rated for 487 MPGe (0.48 liters/100km) city and 273 MPGe (0.86 liters/100km) highway. Cost to charge the battery is less than a dollar.
- Should be classed as a 200 cc motorcycle for insurance purposes (cheap!)

CONS:

- Upfront investment
- Range
- Dealer coverage and options for servicing

MSRP
Starts at $11,495 CAD for the S ZF6
+ $2,500 for the S ZF9

OPTIONS:
+ $595 Quick Charge device
+ $347.37 Side Bags
+ $99.99 Windscreen

Additional Links:

Zero Motorcycles
Freedom Cycles (Halifax, NS)

ZeroS photo slidshow (Note to mobile users - sorry if you can't see these. Picasa uses flash):




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)

2009 Digby, Nova Scotia - Wharf Rat Rally in pictures

CanadianMotorcycleRider took a run down to Digby for the 5th annual Digby Wharf Rat Rally which ran from September 2 - 9th, 2009.

Simply put - it was packed! Downtown Digby, Nova Scotia was completely overtaken by motorcycles. Nova Scotia Department of Transportation was even called in to direct traffic in and out of Digby from the highway.

For a town with a population sitting at around 2,1000 according to 2001 statistics - when about 17,000 motorcycles and 50,000 people come to town - it's a big deal! This is the largest motorcycle rally in Atlantic Canada according to the event organizers.

We stopped in for a few hours on Saturday and tied it in ot a beautiful day of about 550 km's of riding. Here's some pictures from the event for you to check out: