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Roads Less Travelled - Touring Ontario: Algoma Country

Roads Less Travelled - Touring Ontario: Algoma Country
By Dustin Woods, photos by Robert Stimpson

Dustin Woods is an automotive and motorcycle journalist and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Based in Toronto where residents experience two distinct and equally frustrating seasons; winter and construction, Woods is happiest when the city fades away from view in the mirrors of a two-wheeled machine.

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While there are many fair-weather motorcyclists who are content to tear up the same local tarmac week after week, there are others who constantly gaze towards the horizon, ever searching out new roads that will prove more picturesque and challenging than those outside their front door. There are thousands of astoundingly beautiful, scenic routes across this great continent that await those who are willing to take the time to search them out. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. One such riding destination exists between Lakes Huron and Superior known as Algoma Country.

Millions of years ago, during the Precambrian era, a multitude of lakes and rivers were carved out of the earth, creating unique rock formations and stunning views amidst the landscape. Much of this incredibly diverse and distinctive geographical entity remains virtually untouched, allowing a co-existence with nature unseen in most of the world.

A total of 11 National parks as well as nature and wildlife preserves span this landscape where it is not uncommon to come across foxes, deer, hawks, moose or beavers during a ride. This isn’t just tourism department PR either, as I was fortunate enough to come across much of the aforementioned wildlife firsthand during my brief experience in the area. Lacking in gridlock, road rage and even streetlights for the most part, this area has become a playground for nature and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.

There are many reasons why riders may avoid venturing too far from home; kids, pets, work obligations, or even the belief that they will have to ‘rough it’ while on the road. While enduring the lack of cleanliness in truck stop restrooms is something that is difficult to avoid during long road trips away from metropolitan centers, there are a variety of options available for lodging in Algoma Country. Whether you want to experience the pristine wilderness firsthand by camping under the stars or enjoy the indulgence of a pool, hot shower, wireless Internet and satellite television, you are likely to find accommodations that suit your needs. You won’t find a Ritz Carlton for hundreds of miles, but you won’t find the exorbitant cost or pretension that often comes with such luxury hotels either. Friendly, down to earth locals offer unsurpassed northern hospitality to the point where it is not uncommon for proprietors to open up their own homes to complete strangers when their motels are filled to the brim during high season.

An active gateway to the north, Algoma Country also offers access to eco-adventures, canoeing, kayaking and some of the finest fishing lodges in the world – that is if you ever want to get off your bike. For riders who wish to combine their two-wheeled touring with sight-seeing or outdoor adventures, there are many great places to be found. Whether you want to wait out a thunderstorm for a day or just indulge your inner tourist, Algoma Country also has many activities no matter what your interest.

The Algoma Central Railway offers year-round tours through 22,000 square miles of wilderness, including the world`s largest natural wildlife game preserve and the Agawa Canyon. Passengers witness some of the most scenic, pristine wildreness in the world, all from the comfortable cabin of a luxury train. After arriving in the Saulte following an eight hour bike ride, I decided to give my butt a break by stopping in to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Home to antique and historic aircraft, interactive displays and simulators, the Heritage Centre spans 25,000 square feet and can easily occupy hours of your time while waiting for rain to pass or fog to lift.

Having only a couple of days to spare in the area, we decided to tackle the Grand Circle Tour, although there are many options for routes depending on how much time you have. We ventured out from Algoma`s Water Tower Inn where we stayed in downtown Saulte Ste. Marie. While travelling by motorcycle can create a multitude of hassles when it comes to washing, storage and safety, the Water Tower Inn is no stranger to motorsport enthusiasts all year round. Located behind the grand hotel is a locking, secure storage and maintenance facility to keep machines away from the elements as well as prying eyes. Ditto for the Lakeview Hotel in Wawa.

Boasted as one of the top ten drives in all of Canada, the trip from Saulte. Ste. Marie to Wawa Ontario follows the coastline of Lake Superior along Highway 17. No two turns are the same with each one offering a new view of the great lake. Our scenic afternoon ride to Wawa (yes, we saw the giant goose) was broken up by lunch at The Voyageurs` Lodge and Cookhouse, as well as a few stops for photo opportunities and restroom facilities. After parking the bikes directly outside our private cabins at the Wawa Motor Inn, we changed out of our riding gear and headed off to the Best Northern Resort for a truly memorable meal.


Bright and early the next morning, we topped ourselves up with Tim Horton`s coffee and our bikes with gas to set out on a totally different day of riding from the day before. Where Highway 17 boasts wide open views of Lake Superior, Highway 101 towards Chapleau darts inland providing tighter turns and an equally impressive backdrop with sparkling rivers and mountain ranges. After topping up the bikes and ourselves in Chapleau, we set off down Highway 129 back towards the Saulte, stopping first in Bruce Mines and then St. Joseph Island. The most western of the Manitoulin Islands, St. Joseph Island resides within the channel between Lakes Huron and Superior and offers a combination of majestic views and small town hospitality. Home to one of the Friday the 13th destinations, the Hilton Beach Inn is often a favored destination for bikers of all kinds.

Regardless of whether you are just starting out on two wheels or are a seasoned veteran, the stunning landscape and smooth roads of Algoma Country will keep you entertained for as much time as you have to invest. The motorcycle-friendly accommodations offer high value with surprisingly little expense, which makes the trip all the more worthwhile during these difficult economic times.

So this summer, instead of doing the same old loop week in and week out, head up to Algoma Country for a change of scenery - you won`t be disappointed.




Buell 1125's and Ulysses XT - in pictures

My local Harley Davidson dealership (Privateer's Harley Davidson) was frequented today by a bunch of folks looking to get a ride on a Harley Davidson or Buell in what was the most recent stop of Harley Davidson's cross Canada demo tour. It was a fantastic day for it; the weather was beautiful; warm and sunny with not very much wind.

I was lucky enough to get to ride some Buell motorcycles. I've been wanting to test out any bikes with the new liquid cooled, Rotax built, 1125cc, v-twin engine based models. Especially since I've just finished reading 25 Years of Buell. Great book by the way! Definitely recommended reading.

As luck would have it I got to ride a 2009 Buell 1125R and the 2009 1125CR. For good measure, and to see what the differences were, I also tried an air-cooled, 1200cc thunderbolt based Buell; the 2009 Ulysses XT.

The difference is HUGE! I expect that you'll be seeing more 1125cc based bikes from Buell in the future. It's a fantastic mill that makes plenty of smooth linear power. It's easy to ride even at very low speeds. (In the fall of 2008 new engine spark and fuel calibrations were released for 2008 models - the calibrations can be downloaded at your local Buell dealer free of charge.) I barely had a need to get the bike into third at highway speed. The two 1125 based machines were particularly light feeling bikes that felt very nimble and flickable.

And now without further ado. Here's some pictures and some additional thoughts and comments about the bikes:

2009 Buell 1125CR (Cafe Racer) - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.



2009 Buell 1125R - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.



2009 Buell Ulysses XT - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.



Special thanks to:

Privateers Harley Davidson - Halifax, NS for hosting the event. They've been named Canadian Harley-Davidson® Retailer of the Year for the third year in a row for 2008.

Harley Davidson Canada - for providing the bikes and all friendly folks helping everybody have a Harley/Buell experience.


Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300GT


Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300GT
Photo's - some taken during demo and others are BMW supplied

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Special thanks to Atlantic Motoplex in Dieppe NB for the generous use of their Red Apple Metallic BMW K1300GT demo bike. These guys are great and their shop is full of bikes you'll
want in your garage. Go check them out. If you're in the market for a new BMW, Ducati, or Yamaha contact Troy Leblanc @ 506) 383-1022. Tell'em CanadianMotorcycleRider sent you!

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BMW K1300GT; A bit of a dull name for something that sets the high performance touring bar so high. One would think it deserves a name more fitting of its greatness! I guess it's tough to distill all the things that make this bike what it is into just one simple word, so K1300GT it is. Let it be known though that behind that name lies a bike that you can pretty much 'do it all' on - a short cruise around town or a trip across Canada; the BMW K1300 GT is ready for it. To tell you about all the features and technology packed into this machine would take a large book - we're going to hit what we feel are the highlights.

If you want a simple bike without a lot of safety features or technology then this might not be the bike for you because this bike is packed with gee-whiz features. These gee-whiz features are not obtrusive; quite the opposite, they make this bike incredibly comfortable and safer to ride. Anything that keeps you comfortable and warm improves safety and control. As romantic as the thought of riding a hard-tail old-school bike with the barest of necessities is, the K1300GT is undeniably going to be a lot more comfortable and arguably a lot more fun if you plan on riding more than a couple hundred kilometers.

Controls

Not the least hyped and discussed of changes for this new model is the change from BMW switchgear with its left and right activation and right side cancellation buttons. That previous system is gone from this new model and in its place you've got the traditional left side control for signals. I've been told by many BMW riders that you do quickly get accustomed to it - and it does still remain on many BMW models, but I find the right thumb cancellation and signal activation challenging to get used to. I find myself being a little less than smooth because I'm trying to get my thumb on the switches as I'm rolling on or off the throttle. No such worries on this model, there's no acclimatization period - things are just where you're accustomed to if you're coming from another brand.

There are a quite a few controls on the left hand side now, but it still makes sense (to this rider at least) to place such frequently used switches on the side that's not already busy controlling the throttle. It's all well designed and labeled so riders should have no trouble with the switchgear despite all the options at their fingertips.

Many may scoff at an electronically adjustable windscreen initially, that is, until you discover how incredibly useful it is on a touring bike, or any bike that you're going to hit the highway on for that matter. It was windy and gusty the day I rode the K1300GT and I was experiencing some buffeting - my head was shaking noticeably from side to side. Buffeting affects your ability to see properly, causes fatigue, and makes the experience of motorcycling, well, just a little less enjoyable. A quick flick of the thumb and I dialed in the perfect windscreen height to deflect wind blast so it just rolled over the top edge of my helmet and 5'10" frame. Buffeting gone!

I tried adjusting the windscreen up and down slightly at various points of the highway stretch of my ride just to be sure it wasn't just a change in wind that was making the difference - no - the windscreen adjustment was definitely the source of the increased comfort. You have 100 millimeters (or near 4" of adjustment) at the push of a button. Brilliant! It adds some complexity and expense but you'll be spoiled after having this feature.

Protection and Ergonomics

The fairing on the K1300GT serves its purpose well doing an admirable job of protecting your body and legs from the elements. Knees tuck in nicely behind its angular shape. I didn't realize just how much wind was being directed out around my legs until I stuck my knees out to determine just how effective they were. I could barely feel the wind at all with my legs tucked in behind the fairing. Very nice!

The frontal protection offered on this machine is substantial and would certainly make riding in unpleasant weather (ie: rain, wind, cold, or some combination of those) a little more enjoyable though. I did find that the pegs were back a little bit further than I was used to and on a couple of occasions I was hunting for the clutch with my toe - bumping the lower portion of the fairing. A minor issue that would no doubt disappear with a little more seat time.

Speaking of the seat, this one is wide, comfy, and flat. It doesn't push you onto the tank at all. Seat height is easily adjustable by a mechanism under the seat and offers three settings. I was using it on it's highest setting. With my 32" inseam that height suited me just fine. The seat steps up for the passenger so they've got some space to move around without impacting the comfort of the rider. They passenger has some solid, integrated hand grips to hang on to as well.

The grab handles have some adjustability front to back should you so desire. Behind the passenger is a plate that can be used to mount gear on when touring, or perhaps a top box. The K1300GT I rode also had heated seats - another very nice feature that helps boost comfort and extend the riding season a little. The rider and passenger have their own independent control over what temperature they want. The drivers control is on the right switchgear which the passenger control is a small switch located on the right hand side of the bike between the back of the seat and the gear mounting plate.

The handlebars are adjustable for height and coming towards the riders body covering a range of 40 millimeters (almost 1.6") allowing you to easily customize the height of the bars to your exact preferences. The height of the handlebar is adjusted via a mechanical thread-and-bolt setting making it pretty simple and convenient.


Engine & Drivetrain

The K1300GT features a new 1,293 cc engine and a host of improvements over last years 1,157 cc model. The K 1300 GT boasts 160 hp at 9,000 rpm with 99 ft-lbs at 8,000 rpm. In addition, BMW claims that 80% of max torque is available as early as 3,500 rpm. Last years K1200GT produced a claimed 152 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 96 ft-lbs at 7,750 rpm. I haven't ridden a K1200GT but I can tell you that this inline 4 is deceptively fast. It's not a feather light bike and it feels substantial when you sit on it or if you have to back it up in a parking lot but as soon as you're under power the weight disappears and the bike feels as nimble as a ballet dancer. It doesn't feel big at all.

As one might imagine from BMW, the engine and drivetrain are delightfully smooth. One thing you'd better do is keep an eye on that speedometer or you might find yourself in trouble with the law. Highway legal speeds come and go very quickly, and comfortably, on this bike. 110 km/hr feels like a slow walk and there's plenty in reserve at that speed. The clutch shifts with ease and no big clunks as you notch it into place. It oozes quality and precision.

A maintenance-free shaft drive ensures you won't have to worry about chain adjustments or dealing with lubricating a chain. Shaft driven pretty standard in this class of motorcycles. The BMW unit is anything but standard though. This is about the smoothest shifting and running motorcycle I've had the pleasure of riding. No doubt the hydraulically operated multi-disc wet clutch, and six speed synchromesh gearbox contribute greatly to this remarkable smoothness.

Suspension

The bike produces practically no dive under braking because of its optimized Duolever front-wheel suspension. The Duolever has a newly designed lower longitudinal arm - made of aluminum instead of steel which brings down the weight by 2lbs. That may not seem overly relevant in a bike weighing 635 pounds full of fuel but every pound counts. Consider that it's unsprung weight too and if you drop pounds on a bike that's the best place to do it. In the rear you've got the Paralever single-sided swingarm that incorporates final shaft drive.

BMW’s new ESA II (Electronic Suspension Adjustment II) suspension is also available on the K 1300 GT as an extra cost option. This allows the rider to adjust the suspension at the touch of a button to optimize the suspension based on the load you're carrying; whether it's just you riding solo, solo with luggage, or you've got a passenger and luggage. These settings that are represented visually on the LCD situated between the conventional speedometer and tachometer by a single helmet, a single helmet with a suitcase, or two helmets with a suitcase symbol. Damping is user-selectable on-the-fly and at the push of a button you can ride in Sport, Normal, or Comfort mode to suit your riding style. Very useful features on a bike that will tempt you to seek adventure like the K1300GT will.

Speaking of adventure, the 32-litre side cases offer generous amounts of storage and easily swallow up full-face helmet. The latching mechanism is easy to use and so long as you don't lock them you don't require the key to open the cases. The key releases the bags easily from the bike and the integral handle makes them easy to carry into your hotel room. The GT also comes standard with a locking glove box on the right hand side of the fairing to keep necessities close at hand. If you need more enclosed storage you can get an optional top box in 49 or 28-litre capacity.

Braking

BMW's proven EVO brake system and BMW Motorrad ABS provide maximum safety, and the optional ASC (Automatic Stability Control) - which works together with the standard ABS to prevent rear wheelspin, and TPC (tire pressure control) give you extra peace of mind and control. The BMW Motorrad Integral ABS controls the front- and rear-wheels brakes through the handbrake lever, while the foot brake lever controls just the rear-wheel brake.

Brake discs measuring 320 millimeters (12.6") in diameter up front and 294 millimeters (11.6") in the rear pull this bike down from speed in a hurry.

Final Details

A 24-litre fuel tank and BMW's claimed 5 L/100 km @ 90 km/hr OR 5.9 L/100 km @ 120 km/hr give this Gran Turismo a very respectable theoretical range of over 400 km's before needing to stop for refueling.

Available in three colours: Red Apple Metallic, Royal Blue Metallic and Magnesium Beige Metallic.

Options

Here's some Canadian pricing information on the factory options:

Standard Equipment:
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Closed-loop 3-way Catalytic Converter
- Colour Matched Luggage Cases
- Electrically Adjustable Windshield
- Heated Grips
- ABS Brakes

Options:
- High Windshield = $150
- Anti-Theft Alarm System = $250.00
- Lowered Seat 800/820mm = $ 0
- Safety Package: Tire Pressure Control, Automatic Stability Control = $ 600.00
- Equipment Package 1: On Board Computer = $ 215.00
- Equipment Package 2: Electronic Suspension Adjustment, Heated Seat, On Board Computer = $1,300.00
- Equipment Package 3: Xenon Light, Electronic Suspension Adjustment, Heated Seat, Cruise Control, On Board Computer = $2,000

Base price is $21,825.00 but you can easily option that up by several thousand dollars. The fit, finish, build quality, and overall feel of this motorcycle help you to come to terms with that sticker price. This is a high quality motorcycle.

Closing Remarks

If you're in the market for a sporty, comfortable, touring machine in a surprisingly nimble 1300cc package then you should most certainly check out the BMW K1300GT. I've had the opportunity to ride many bikes and this is one that I can honestly say ranks very highly on my list of bikes I'd like to own. It's practical, comfortable, and safe - but not at the expense of losing excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed this bike.


Mainland Nova Scotia - Motorcycle Road Guide

This article comes by way of reader submission by Dave Cox - avid motorcyclist, and resident of Nova Scotia. He rides a Suzuki 800 Volusia; and ride he does, based on this map he has submitted. 

Dave clearly took some time on and off the motorcycle preparing this map.  On the map he ranks many routes across the mainland portion of Nova Scotia (excludes Cape Breton). If you look closely you can see that many of the exit numbers on the 100 series highways are included.

Dave has graciously provided us with a copy of his hand drawn map so we thought we'd share it with you as a resource you can use to help plan your next Nova Scotia adventure. If you're visiting the province this may greatly assist you in planning some interesting rides and avoiding some potentially disappointing ones. 

The home base of Canadian Motorcycle Rider is Nova Scotia so I know I'll be referring to this map and checking out some of these routes this summer.

In addition to the map itself, Dave mentions that a seemingly often overlooked gem of the mainland is the 245 and 337 that take you around Cape George between New Glasgow and Antigonish. He likens it to a mini-Cabot Trail and that it's probably THE best ride on the mainland. High praise - Might just have to make that one a priority!

Thanks Dave!

Another special thanks for this submission from Dave goes to Motorcycle Mojo to whom Dave first submitted the map to.  Thanks Motorcycle Mojo for also allowing us to publish the map and share it with riders.

Note: The map is large, so rather than post a small single image of it we've broken it down into three pieces that you can enlarge, print, and piece together to have as a reference. Piece them together starting with piece 1, then 2, and finally with 3.

Click the images below to enlarge them to their full size:

Image 1
Image 2Image 3

Some additional resources for motorcyclists in Nova Scotia that you may want to take a look at:

Cabot Trail Motorcycle Retreat - A motorcycle retreat nestled on 100 acres of wooded land in Middle River, Nova Scotia. They've got three guest rooms and are a great spot to stop when exploring the Cabot Trail. CanadianMotorcycleRider readers receive a 15% discount off already reasonable rates. Be sure to mention us when booking!

Motorcycle Tour Guide Nova Scotia - A free tour guide book of Nova Scotia geared specifically towards motorcyclists. A great companion to any motorcycle trip to Nova Scotia.

NS Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal WebCams - the highway camera site of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. This site allows motorists to check out road and weather conditions on the Department's highway cameras during daylight hours. These cameras are located next to the highway at specific locations across the province.

NS Tourism Guide - Nova Scotia's official tourism website.