Friday, August 31, 2018

Maine again

I've been neglecting my blog again.

Mrs. North and I made our annual pilgrimage to Maine in August. Almost four weeks ago now.

A handful of photos, taken on my phone, turned out like paintings. It must have been a combination of the heat and the water, and the way the phone compressed and resampled the images. Or maybe Maine just looks like a painting.

One of these days I'll get back to documenting all the mischief I've been up to. Sooner than later, summer is slipping away.

- Ride North

Friday, July 20, 2018

Ode to Triumph

I ride an 885cc, 550 lb.Triumph Trophy triple, built in 1996, and I love it!

 Recently an opportunity to replace it came up which sent me on a bit of a scavenger hunt. I was confident that many bikes would tick all my sport touring boxes. The progress made in twenty years is truly outstanding. But I hit a snag when I crossed two classes of bikes off my list. I’m not looking for a roomier sport bike like a VFR and I’m really not that interested in a bike over 600 pounds or 120 hp. I just don’t need either of those things in my life. What I do need is some weather protection, a lump that’s easy to use around town, and confidence inspiring handling. In those regards, the Trophy finds itself in an elite class.

The old Trophys were much more comfortable than the Sprints that followed them. It will knock out a 5 hour stint on the freeway no problem and can be ridden all day without fatigue. (the Corbin saddle helps) And it’s far less mass than a modern Trophy, which competes more with BMWs K bikes than their RT twin. It’s a cushy sport bike that can truly tour, a combination that seems to be missing from many manufacturers’ lineups.

That’s not to say it has no modern peers, I just expected to find more. So what’s on my radar? First of all, the Moto Guzzi Norge ticks all my boxes and comes with ABS, fuel injection, plenty of torque, and easy going handling that doesn’t mind playing a sport bike on the weekends. The FJR1300 is a proven platform if not a little bigger than I’d like. From what I can tell, it can be a perfectly good commuter. A Versys 1000 would be an absolute blast, upright yet sporty with long legs for soaking up St Paul’s crumbling infrastructure. And of course BMW’s R1200RT or ST if you can find one. 

I believe the BMW RT has been a consistent favorite because of its friendly power plant, excellent handling, comfort, and reasonable size. It’s just an effortless bike to use day-to-day that will tour and carve corners. It’s not the fastest bike out there and has its issues (ABS). There’s a reason people put so many miles on them, the bike just makes riding easy. These qualities have been a winning combination for decades.

I really didn’t expect a 20 year old Triumph to keep such good company until I set out on a search to replace it. There are surprisingly few motorbikes out there that inspire me to go through the hassle of selling, buying, and dialing in a new bike. Don’t get me wrong, it has 20 year old bike problems: some of the rubber components needed replacement, it has carburetors (which is a non-issue for me), no ABS or traction control, and the bodywork is no longer available from Triumph (most other parts are still available). 

I rode the Trophy to work this morning, cool temps and a light drizzle. A proper English commute. It felt right at home.

No new bike for me yet but you never know when inspiration will strike.

- Ride North

Friday, May 25, 2018

Taking in the scene

Rockers Spring Social 2018
by Ton Up Minneapolis

Rockabilly and recycling. 

El Toro lento

a Ural Soloist gets cafed

Flake for days.

This is a new to the U.S. Genuine G400C available at Scooterville.
It's a 400 "Honda" single that makes about 30 hp. 

Triumph Sprints and V11 Guzzis belong together.

best friends, circa 2009 

After the show and some coffee, I took the XS500 down River Road from the Mill City Museum to lower town St Paul. It was a gloriously beautiful ride under a canopy of trees with very little traffic.

Sunday, May 20th
70 and sunny - perfect
20ish miles but who's counting

- Ride North

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

South east Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin

Got out for a quick 28 hours last Friday and Saturday.

After work on Friday I rode down to Preston Minnesota to meet Todd and my dad at the Country Trails Inn & Suites. This is a great place to stay if you're in the Preston/ Lanesboro area. It has a pool and hot tub, and is conveniently located next to a bowling alley, liquor store, gas station, and supper club. The area is popular for its trout streams, turkey hunting, paved bicycle paths, camping, and motorcycle roads. Expect to run into all sorts of happy folks eager to share stories of their adventures. 

After a beverage on the hotel “patio” we walked up the hill to the Branding Iron super club for old fashions and steak dinners. Neither the view nor the cocktails disappoint, and the food is good too. Afterwards, we stopped in at the bowling alley bar to check out the local scene. Turns out that WE were the local scene. After one round we called it an early night and pointed our boots back towards the hotel.

the Branding Iron, Preston Minnesota

I had a route planned for the next morning that would take us on a tour of south east Minnesota and spit us out in Lansing Iowa around lunch time. Todd and my dad brought their adventure bikes so a little gravel was in order. The lack of paved roads differentiates the Minnesota and Iowa Driftless area from Wisconsin. Gota keep those milk trucks clean! If you want to explore the valleys of Minnesota, you’ll have to get dirty. 

The usual cast of characters.

First on my list was Ox Cart Trail. It’s the back way into Lanesboro and goes up and over a limestone ridge. The highlight is a one lane section that hugs the cliff face on one side and provides views of downtown Lanesboro on the other. It was also a good warm up for what turned out to be reasonably loose gravel roads. 

From there we hopped on highway 16, a blue ribbon road, and found our way over to highway 43. Forty three winds down into the Root River valley (south branch) following the contours of the land as it goes. In the town of Choice we head east on Fillmore County 13/Huston County15, following the river downstream. 

an "abandoned" church on CR 13, 
tents were pitched on the grounds this weekend

Minnesota 76  from CR 4 to CR 22 is a little piece of heaven which was discussed over coffee at a the Farmhouse Eatery & Gifts in Caledonia. I recommend  the coffee cake. Heading out we found another gravel road (CR 249) that would take us to the big river. The closer you get to the Mississippi the grander the views get, towering bluffs and broad valleys. We even caught two eagles with their talons locked as they fell into the valley below us. 

Bob Ross clouds over 76

We picked up lunch in Lansing before traversing the river and taking Wisconsin 82 over to 131 and Wildcat Mountain, roads we are all very familiar with.

Normal spring water levels in Lansing Iowa, 
time to fetch the trailer.

Todd and my dad were staying in the Dells Saturday night before heading to the Slimy Crud run in the morning, I needed to be back in St Paul that evening. We parted ways in Ontario and I set out to find a nice place for a nap before making the journey home. The park at lake Neshonoc, just east of La Crosse, worked out just fine. 

I took mostly straight roads back to highway 35 (108 to Mindoro is under construction) and followed the river back to Prescott. Around Pepin a powerful front came through blowing leaves and branches all over the road. Rain gear on, I watched the storm and lightning roll across lake Pepin. It was beautiful, if not a little damp. As quickly as the storm came it rolled out again leaving a spectacular sunset in its wake. 

At the bird / drawn bow effigy. Hwy 35 north of Pepin.
Even the rain was good on Saturday.

Hwy 52. St Paul to Preston

Preston to Lansing

Lansing to Ontario and back to St Paul
Friday May 4th 
112 mi. 1:48
5:00 - 7:00 PM
60 and sunny

Saturday May 5th
363 mi. 8:11
9:30 AM - 8:30 PM
70s and sunny with a popup storm in the evening

- Ride North

Rooster's rules of the road
The closer you get to your destination, the harder the rain falls.

Different Rooster.
I need to track one of these down. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Good morning St Paul

Bicycle ride into work this morning.
50F and partly sunny on a beautiful Monday morning.
Dayton's bluff, looking south east from the Hwy 52 bridge.

- Ride North

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sometimes it snows in April

Spring conditions in Minnesota signal the dormant northern motorcyclist to awake from its slumber. Tools are dusted off signaling the arrival of the spring maintenance season. This busy state of tinkering is brought on by wet heavy snow and high sustained winds followed by a warm sunshine that betrays these winter like conditions. Surely, it's an exciting time in the life of the northern motorcyclist.

April 14th- 15th
30 degrees
high sustained winds
12 - 16 inches of snow

A highly scientific measurement. 

What's the point?

- Ride North