October 31, 2009

Funny!

The weather still sucks, I had a rough day, and a tough job interview today. So I am in need of something to cheer me up. I found this German comic strip by Holger Aue. It is clearly misogynistic and even says so in the left upper corner. Well, I am female and I find it hilarious. So please, ladies (and gentlemen in touch with their female side), take it with a grain of salt. Translation below.

1) Not so fast!
2) Don't lean!
3) Watch the oil spill!
4) Oh God, the curb!
5) Careful, the car!
6) Ease on the throttle, it's too loud!
7) Watch out, the road!
Him wondering: How bad will it get, once we are actually riding?

October 29, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. NOT!


Again, it's a crisp morning with fresh snow on the ground, and I am once again confined indoors, since I don't have the appropriate riding skills and heating equipment for this kind of weather. I honestly admire and envy those riders (male or female) who manage those adverse weather conditions; and I wish I was as skilled and as brave enough to do it. But I am not going to test my luck on a two wheeler in worst driver's capital Calgary, where cagers under normal conditions are a dangerous species, let alone cagers driving on slippery roads.

Nevertheless, this time-out is an opportunity to get my ducks in the row and file the application for Canadian Citizenship. It has been four and a half years since I have been invited to this wonderful country as a permanent resident in the skilled worker category, and I feel that this is the right step towards integration. I also hope that this might eventually increase my future career opportunities, since permanent residents sometimes (due to security clearance, or preference of citizens) do only have limited access to the job market.

October 26, 2009

Joe Bar Team


I have never been over enthusiastic about narrative artwork dealing with humorous subject matter. (There is a 'but' coming...) But in the mid 90s I worked for a French Company, where a colleague of mine and fellow motard (=biker) introduced me to a comic book called Joe Bar Team. The (male) characters are very cliché, very french, and absolutely realistic. Their specialties are friendly competition, tuning, racing, stunting (likely in front of cops) or Harley bashing, and bragging about while hanging out in Joe's bar. Highly recommended reading.


Disclaimer: "The events depicted in this comic are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental."

October 25, 2009

Dear Santa...

I am currently looking into taking an evolutionary step forward (bike-wise), and adding another model to my fleet swapping my little red Hawk next year for an Enduro cross-over travel bike with some off-road capabilities. I was always fond of the Honda Transalp.
But unfortunately this bike isn't available in Canada, and since the BMW F800GS is kind of beyond my current budget capabilities, the next best things I came across was the Suzuki V-Strom and the Kawa Versys. I had the opportunity to check out all models, here's my findings:
BMW F800GS
Pros: Rock solid technology, quality and finish. It's a BMW (and I am German), need I say more?
Cons: Expensive, too high seating position even with a 'Lady' seat

Suzuki V-Strom
Pros: Powerful engine, easy handling, good wind protection, lots of aftermarket farkles available
Cons: Outdated looks, heavy

Kawasaki Versys
Pros: Lowest price, pleasing design (must be a girl thing), lightweight, good handling and seating position
Cons: Gear shifting is a little whacky, no ABS version available in Canada

October 24, 2009

Free Parking... my ass!

In Europe I never ever paid a cent to park my bike, neither in London, nor in Paris, not in Florence, and not in my hometown Cologne. Parking a two-wheeler on the sidewalk or between parked cars has always been tolerated, and I never had any trouble with pedestrians, other motorists or authorities in that matter. There were even designated spots for bikers only, and there were for free.

Recently I had to run an errand in Calgary downtown, and spent more time looking for a half decent parking spot for my scooter than for the errand itself. Maybe I am just too blind or stupid, but I got the impression that there is almost no legal parking for motorcycles, and 'illegal' spots are made inaccessible for bikes on purpose. So you either have to bite the bullet and pay in full for car parking (which I finally did), or find one of the newly announced 100 (in a city of over 1 million people!!!) official bike parking lots, and still have to pay a parking fee for it.
Fellow riders know about the advantages of commuting with a two-wheeler, but Oilberta for obvious reasons has no major interest in the reduction of the carbon footprint. Nevertheless it was actually this May, that motorcycle commuting has been promoted by introducing some designated parking spots for bikes, but I doubt that it has something to do with the obvious advantages of taking the bike to work, but with the fact that motorcycle parking fees will also line the city pockets.

Finally I found this map, created by fellow rider Ryan of the Alberta Motorcycle community, and work in progress, which might help to find free parking in downtown in the future.

October 19, 2009

Solo vs. Companion or Group Riding

Since I started riding rather late this Summer, I haven't had much opportunity to connect with other fellow bikers, and rode alone most of the time. As long as I am in broad daylight, and not far away from 'civilization' riding solo feels just fine, but since my last mishap (although my going horizontal had happened in the parkade) I couldn't stop thinking about the what if's. What if I have an accident or drop my bike somewhere in the sticks? Usually a cell phone doesn't get good reception in the mountains. What if I get hurt? How long, until help would arrive?

Often it is wrong timing (too early, route too long, other obligations...), weather issues (too cold, too warm, too wet...) or different riding philosophies (posing, dirt tracking, touring) and speed (racing or flower picking) that makes trip coordination with a companion rider or a group difficult.

For example, I like to get up early, to catch the fresh air and the morning light. Big plus, I don't have to share the roads with too many other motorists. Also, my average velocity is no more than 60 to 80 kmh, This speed gives me the illusion of safety, and the hope to be able to react quickly enough to road hazards. I will occasionally stop just to admire the scenery, or to take pictures, not to forget the bathroom breaks.

Riding solo allows some quiet time, spontaneity in changing tour plans, freedom to stop and go whenever or where ever wanted. That all adds to the character of the riding adventure, but one have to be able to deal with the said what-if's. In a group one has to be open for compromises, follow the leader of the pack, and adapt to the group speed, but one will always have buddies to assist, or to chat with. I hope to find a companion who has a mutual understanding of where to go and when to stop, somebody who can lead and follow, who is flexible and reliable. Maybe it will help if I put that wish on my Christmas list.

October 18, 2009

October 16, 2009

Armchair Traveling


Since riding days are pretty much over for this season, I return to my stack of well-read travel books. One of my favorites is 'Abgefahren' by Claudia Metz and Klaus Schubert, two Germans who left their home country in 1981 to ride around the world on two XT600's. Their journey lasted 18 years. 'Abgefahren' has two meanings: on the one hand way-out or cool, but also taken off or gone.

The newest addition to my book shelf is 'Dreaming of Jupiter', in which Ted Simon set out on a second world-trip, 30 years after his first journey. And last but not least, Emilio Scotto's voyage, an Argentinian who rode solo around the world on his Gold Wing, documenting his travels lasting 10 years, and 500,000 miles in 'The longest Ride'.

October 14, 2009

Bagging it


After a quick road check I decided to pack away my Hubby's scooter for this season. There is no chance that I would make it safely to the main road anyway. The Hawk will be next to be wrapped up for the season.

Darn this white S**t! Why did even I move to Alberta in the first place? Ah, yes, there have been tons of job opportunities, with emphasis on 'have been'. Now I am unemployed, I don't ski, I am no good at horse riding, I despise hunting, and fishing bores me to death. As a matter of fact I do not even drive a pick-up truck (Although I wouldn't mind to have one handy every now an then.). Instead, I do love the ocean, all kinds of water sports, and I ride two-wheelers. From the looks of it, I should belong to the West Coast. Well then, if anyone out there needs a purchaser, let me know.

October 13, 2009

Riding Solo



It doesn't always take the latest technique, a whole bunch of sponsors and a fully equipped camera team to make an impressive movie about motorcycle travels. Gaurav Jani, an Eastern Indian film maker is producer, director, actor, rider and cameraman in his film about motorcycle riding to the top of the world.

October 12, 2009

Dreaming of Deauville

Beginning of September Honda America has made a smart move in the direction of medium power touring bikes, when announcing the introduction of the all new NT700V, in other parts of the world since over a decade also known as Deauville. This babe has everything I need: It's made for touring as well as for commuting, just look at the panniers. It comes with a comfy low seating position, just enough fairings and an adjustable windshield, has a shaft drive and ABS. The only downside is the relatively high weight. Have they used heavy metal to build this thing? 562lbs or 255kg curb weight is way too much. I wonder if it will be available also in Canada?
If this bike would ever be mine, I would get her some Hepco-Becker engine guards/crash bars to prolong the shelf life of the fairings, though.

October 11, 2009

Roads untraveled

It wasn't health issues, an accident or a technical breakdown that separated me from motorcycling at the end of the old century. Constant changes in my live and my career simply took priority over riding. There wasn't much time left over for bikes, or any other hobby for that matter. Finally, in the Fall of 1998 I sold my last two wheeler, my good ole trusty Rubbercow. Ever since I had regrets creeping up on me, however I haven't been back on a bike... until came Summer 2009.

October 10, 2009

Fond Memories of 1997: An Affair to Remember


... an affair to forget. I don't remember what had me pushed back to riding pillion, but in May we explored the north of France riding together on BMW R1100GS. It was cold and rainy and the French weren't as enthusiastic about wet and dirty riders, as the Brits had been. Ultimately fed up with the weather (and the people) we hit the highway south and ended up in a cozy motorcycle hotel in southern France, to where we would return again later the year.
On our second sojourn I rented a BMW F650 for occasional solo trips. The roads were twisty, the weather was great, the bike however didn't leave any lasting impressions.

October 09, 2009

Fond Memories of 1996: Coming of Age

Bike-wise I seemed to have grown up. I was tired of chain maintenance and the greasy remainders on my hands, the vibrations of a thumper and the limited power of a 500cc machine. I traded my Clubman for an 11 years old BMW R80 a.k.a. Rubber Cow. She provided a comfy seat, a shaft drive, and had enough power to carry all my stuff plus camping gear. My then-friend had meanwhile swapped the Transalp for a BMW R1100GS. Again our travels would lead us to the south of France.

The R80 prove herself to be a solid, reliable, but rather plain boring bike. Like in some relationships, it wasn't love, it was pure convenience that kept us together for many miles. I didn't have any regrets when I finally sold her in 1998. I had regrets that I gave up on motorcycling, though.

1995 to 1998 Commuting = Scooting

For daily commuting I fancied a 125cc Vespa, easy to maintain, fast enough to keep up with the traffic, and just tiny enough to split lanes without annoying the cagers. Cagers were usually soft on scooters. As long as the roads were clear of snow or sleet, I went to work with this racy little play-thing. I eventually sold it after a promotion that gave me the benefits of a business car, but I still miss it.

October 08, 2009

Fond Memories of 1995: In France and Lucky in Love


I hopelessly fell in love with a Honda XBR500. To be honest, I got a little fed up with the otherwise trustworthy SR's kick starter and wanted to have an electric starter for a change. The GB500 was the closest I would ever get to a cafe racer. She was a beauty and I should have kept her forever. Meanwhile my then-friend called a Honda Transalp his own, probably the best multi-purpose bike, then and now. Obviously I liked her a lot, too.

October 07, 2009

Fond Memories of 1994: England - The Wet Side of Life


I took the little thumper on a ferry ride to South England and Cornwall, my friend rode on a Suzuki Intruder 800, that I never really liked. Maybe because I just don't fancy them pseudo choppers that much.

Together we managed to survive the choppy seas, driving on the wrong left side, riding in London traffic, and two weeks of rain. It was great! In the mother country of Triumph and Norton we were always welcome no matter how wet and dirty, offered a dry spot for our bikes (once even in a hotel lobby), and received encouraging words that kept us going despite the adverse weather conditions.

Together my then-friend, his Trudi, my thumper and me, we traveled through Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Germany, and became long-time companions - until...

(Note to reader: Those adventures were pre-digital, and many photos have been lost since in the rifts of time-space continuum, a.k.a. moving, separation and loss of negatives)

October 06, 2009

Fond Memories of 1993: Adolescence

Since the power of 250cc wouldn't longer satisfy me, and I wanted to go on longer trips, I started shopping around for a bigger bike. I ended up with a taller bike instead. I made the mistake to purchase a Suzuki DR600, a model fancied by my brother, which was fun to ride, once rolling. But heaven forbid I had to kick-start it on uneven grounds. I was vertically challenged with over 90cm seat height and this friggin' kick-starter, and ended up swapping it for a little thumper named Yamaha SR500 only a couple of months later.

October 05, 2009

Fond Memories of 1992: Late Bloomer

Most certainly I was not born to ride. In fact I hated bicycles, especially pedaling uphills. And from where I used to live, everything seemed to be uphill. A neighbor's son, Lothar, introduced me to the advantages of motorized two wheeling. I rode pillion on his Honda Monkey, and I had been a rider's back warmer ever since on many other occasions. For a long time I was happy with sitting behind, until my brother talked me me into getting my own motorcycle driver's license. Maybe he was just fed up with me asking him all the time, if he would take me for a ride.
Taking the classroom courses was mandatory but boring, since I had my car driver's license for several years. Needless to say that I passed the road knowledge test with flying colors. Also, I took 12 hours of safety training (eight hours were mandatory) on a Kawasaki Eliminator ZL400 during the Winter of 91/92. I only remember that it was dark, cold and wet most of the time and I had poor equipment. I passed the road test in April 1992, which got shortened because of sleet.

My new bike was already waiting in the garage: An almost new Yamaha Virago 250.

October 04, 2009

Grounded!

Obviously the riding season is over. Temperatures are below zero and there there is this white stuff on the streets that makes it hard for two wheelers to keep their vehicles under control.

To make the best out of it I spent some time re-reading some of my all-time favorite books:
Ted Simon's Jupiters Travels and Robert M. Pirsig's Zen or the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

and watch some DVDs such as
One Week, a cancer patient's travel from Ontario to Vancouver Island on a beautiful Norton Commando

or
Long Way Round and Long Way Down. The travels of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.

I also found some interesting blogs of fellow riders that I have added to my watch-list, reading with envy that they are still on the road, while I have to stay put.

October 03, 2009

You got to be kidding me!


It's friggin' snowing! I am not yet ready for Winter.