Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reefton Spur

I have done two nice rides this week. Both half-days. On Sunday Fee and I went out on the bike. I did not take the camera, but we saw hot rods and a rockabilly band, Hells Angels, bulls fighting in a paddock, and winding quiet roads.

Yesterday I went riding with two friends, Marlon and James. We did a loop through the Black and Reefton Spurs. It was James' first time on the most famous and infamous motorcyling road in Australia - Reefton Spur. The Black Spur is wonderful, despite the fact we got stuck behind incompetent Sunday drivers.

Marlon and I have been discussing and improving our riding techniques of late, and through Reefton we kept up a fast pace, with him leading and me following James. We stayed together as a tight group. James' bike is small, under-powered in these conditions, with very poor suspension (making it hard to ride fast through corners on), and was running badly, back-firing constantly. Yet his fast lines through the corners were excellent and seemed effortless. I, on the other hand, was at times quite cautious. Going fast around blind corners worries me - is there a fallen tree? gravel? a truck? - and I had to constantly remind myself to relax and focus on riding well. It was as though I had a psychological brake on the whole time, which slowed me down and stiffened me up compared to James. I am sure he could beat me through these corners were we to race. Speaking to Marlon later, he felt the same as I. And yet he and I have much more riding experience than James, who is ten years my junior.  We also reflected on how we, ourselves, used to be as fast and effortless and fearless as James is, despite the fact we are now much more experienced and so, one would therefore assume, better riders. The difference is usually described as the younger having a foolish disregard for the dangers, and certainly the converse point - about an increasing sense of the risks with age - is true and was evident on this ride. But its something else, also. Something which is the kind of the same, and yet vitally different and positive. A person in their late teens / early twenties often has this fluid sense of limits, this unlimited feeling for extending their being which makes them capable of taking challenges with ease. A motorcycle seems the perfect tool or bodily extension for this free way of being, and it is beautiful to watch the easy gracefulness with which a young person moves with it.

We found an echidna along the way.

Above Marysville.

In Warburton; Marlon and James being mystical in a post-modern way.

Well (see below), James is mystical, while Marlon is post-modern (what with his duck-contemplation, opening up and questioning the space between, and perceptual access to, the intended object of his attention. Quack!).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Emu Flat

I spent this afternoon in a sweeping arc north of Melbourne: north to Yea via King Lake, to Seymour, Pyalong, Emu Flat, Kyneton, Trentham, Myrniong, and home via the Western Highway. I focussed on cutting graceful lines through the corners rather than slow-riding for scenery. I was struck by how much of riding is done by the hands. You turn corners by counter-steering: pressing on the handlebar in the direction you want to go. This turns the wheel in the opposite direction to the line of travel, which is counter-intuitive, but the sensation is very intuitive: you move your hands in your intended direction. My Honda is so quiet and smooth, and powerful. When I accelerate hard it sings a high "hummmmm" and hurtles into warp speed. I press forward now with one hand, now the other, and my motorcycle leans over, confident as I maintain the speed limit through corner after corner.

A brilliant sky and sun. Perfect!

The Honda's curves express the fluidity with which it slides through the curves of the road.

I explored a dirt road. The surface corrugations were a nightmare with my destructed steering bearings. But the bike took to the dirt well.

I stopped to look at abandoned homes, schools, and churches. Cool summer light was my company.

Taking the highway home from the West was an education in contrast: the landscape between Melbourne and Ballarat is a windswept vacancy of soullessness. Housing estates eat like cancer into the ugly hills and plains, where nothing grows because of the relentless high winds. Paddocks are not refreshing acres of nature, but sub-lots of grass of the sort you find in industrial places: fading ice-cream wrappers tangled in weeds. The grass looks poisonous in its odd green and the land seems in waiting to turn dark under a factory or parking lot. The aggressive almost psychopathic behaviour of a driver I encountered seemed of a piece with this blind ugly place.

But the city, as highway became freeway rising in looped super-structure, was beautiful in a concrete and metal way which the grassed hills previous to this lacked. Sound barriers hissed at me then shot upwards and away; tar curved in huge empty sweeps which I surfed with ease, even while feeling dwarfed. Massiveness became sublimity. Sublimity is beauty. This post-modern functional art has a eucharistic value for those who must drive in out of the western wastelands.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Marlon's SR520

On Monday night my friend Marlon invited me to ride his hopped up Yamaha SR400. You might recall that alongside the Hornet I own an SR500. Marlon had an SR400, and sent it to a specialist for a performance rebuild. That was in May; he just got it back. $5000 later it came out 520cc, with a new crank, carillo rod, performance cam for a low immediate powerband, exhaust, and a keihin carb. All made to work as a unit with proper testing. The bike was dyno'd before and after, and now produces twice the horse-power, with power that comes on just above idle, with a heavy thump, a much higher redline, and a lion's snarl when you ride hard. It is an utterly new bike, quite unlike the standard SR.

Yesterday we went for a ride. Mount Macedon, Daylesford, Maldon, Castelmaine and home. In violent storms.

Looking north, atop Mount Tarrengower above Maldon, at one of the multiple storm fronts