â€˜Winging South David & Janet Cohen
‘Winging it. Part 1
The 2010 Burt Munro Challenge and a Tour of Southern NZ on a Honda GL1800 Gold Wing.
When Rachel posted a Facebook comment saying our Burt Munro Challenge Tour video had ‘awesome roads and countryside’ and ‘is now on my ‘To Do list!’ it really felt like we’d kicked a goal. It’s the sort of trip that should be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’ and maybe we’d done it some justice, although I did agree when the Co-pilot said ‘the pictures don’t show how truly magnificent the place is’. It was also gratifying to know that the sponsorship provided by Venture Southland, so that we could tell a lot of people about how good the Burt Munro event is, had yielded some return.
Day 1 Chistchurch to Queenstown Day 2 Queenstown to Invercargill Day 3 - 4 - 5 Invercargill and environs Burt Munro Challenge Day 6 Invercargill - Kaka Point Day 7 Kaka Point - Cromwell Day 8 Cromwell - Christchurch Approx 1,850km
The plan was simple. Take a premium touring motorcycle and spent 8 days in near perfect conditions riding on the lower NZ mainland. Throw in a destination with more different types of motorcycle races than you’ll probably ever see in one meeting and it’s hard to think of a better ride anywhere. The South Island of New Zealand is a truly wondrous place. The ride started at Hampton Honda in Christchurch. We flew down to ‘shaky town’ and met Robin and Ryan Hampton at their very pleasant Hornby showrooms. There they introduced us to the ride, a beautiful GL1800 Gold Wing – henceforth referred to as ‘The ‘Wing’. The franchise is very impressive, a purpose built facility (that came through the earthquake unscathed), offering a range of Motorcycle, Farm and Automotive services across the Honda range, and they have a pretty good selection of accessories in store too. The star of the show was Metallic Sky Blue in colour and parked right out front, waiting for us to unload our suitcase, backpack full of sundry camera items, laptop and personals for 8 days, into the ample luggage. It all fitted with a sixpack to spare.
Robin gave me a brief re-acquaintance with the myriad of ‘Wing controls and we soon had it pointed south. Fizzing. I was driving Co-pilot mad with ‘how good is this???’ And was keen to add to the 200km showing on the odometer. The run down the familiar coastal stretch past Ashburton was spent re-learning the controls. Dial in the cruise control and check the onboard thermometer (which was hovering in the pleasant, mid 20c range), fiddle with the stereo volume, you know, all that normal motorbike stuff. Over a picnic in Ashburton Gardens we sussed the GPS and entered the address of the Mercure in Queenstown into the integrated system. Then we simply followed the little red arrow to the turnoff to Geraldine and along route 79 to eventually pick up SH8 at Fairleigh. The towering Alps, still with an early-summer dusting of snow were slowly drawing closer. We rolled into the Mackenzie District and conditions were pretty much perfect as we passed the first patch of Lupins by the roadside.
Just a few long, sweeping bends beyond that first splash of roadside colour was Lake Tekapo, gleaming in an amazing azure and we were anticipating our first good look at Mt Cook not far beyond (we’ve passed it a number of times in heavy overcast). It didn’t disappoint either. Even in the late afternoon there was not a cloud in the sky as we stopped at the head of Lake Pukaki and drank in the magnificent scene. We would have liked to travel further along Route 80, to the foot of the 3,754mtr giant, but the shadows were lengthening and our night in Queenstown beckoned. As it was, crossing the open basin floor on the ‘Wing, marvelling at the big southern skies and the distant ramparts climbing away in every direction, was simply delightful.
We were sitting in consecutive lounge chairs, watching the spectacle of the changing scenery unfold as we made our way through Lindis Pass (which we videoed and posted on our You Tube channel) and on into Central Otago via Cromwell for the first time on this tour. From there it was on to the interesting section of road through the Kawarau George to Queenstown for a late dinner and time to watch the last vestiges of daylight disappear over the (aptly named) Remarkables.
Day 2 on tour and excellent weather conditions still prevailed. It was already warm as we made our way along one of my favourite parts of the ride south, SH6 down the Lake Wakatipu foreshore past the Devilâ€™s Staircase. Majestic vistas spread out before us with snow capped peaks to frame the glistening lake scene. Truly remarkable.
Past Kingston, at the foot of the lake, the Alps again recede to the west and the sprawling foothill country eventually gives way to the plains of Southland. Green, lush and rich countryside took us the rest of the way to our destination, the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill and the Burt Munro Challenge. Ascot Park is Invercargillâ€™s largest hotel, offering both motel and hotel accommodation and a range of conference and function facilities. Our room was comfortable and the facilities were first rate for the four nights we stayed. The steaks in the Emberz Restaurant are worth a mention. Bike parking was right outside the back door to our room and riders all made feel very welcome. Itâ€™s a theme that runs through the town all festival long; welcome. The Mayor even goes on the Toy Run.
The Burt Munro Challenge Part 2
‘Following the success of the 2005 movie about Burt Munro’s inspirational life – “The World’s Fastest Indian”, the Southland Motorcycle Club created the Burt Munro Challenge to honour Burt, his ingenuity, determination, and love of speed and motorcycles. The inaugural event was held in 2006, and it has since forged a name for itself as one of New Zealand’s major motorsport events. It has a strong local & national following, and rapidly growing international interest. It attracts top New Zealand riders as well as all the weekend warriors, all provided with a variety of exciting events, fantastic entertainment, and famous southern hospitality.’ - www.burtmunrochallenge.com The 2010 Challenge was held in conditions that proved a stark contrast to the cyclone that prevailed during the ’09 event. There was an occasional passing shower, but on the whole temperatures in Southland ranged through the high 20’s and blue skies greeted the start of several events on the newly extended programme.
The whole city gets behind the event and there are a number of civic displays around the Challenge programme. The Southland Musem has a large collection of Burtâ€™s memorabilia on display, as well as replicas from the film. His sponsor, hardware retailer E. Haynes & Sons, have some of Muroâ€™s original machines on display in store (next to the lawn mowers) and they attract a steady stream of leather-clad visitors over the course of the celebrations. Challenge attendees are also welcome to visit the Richardson Truck musem. This private collection is huge and simply fascinating for anyone interested in historic machinery.
Aldridge and George dominate the Long Track
Hot and humid conditions were certainly the case on the opening Wednesday as Christchurch’s Andrew Aldridge and Tim George from Amberley produced dominating displays on The ‘Long Track’ at Ascot Park Raceway - included in the BMC programme for the first time. The races billed as the ‘NZ Championships’ were decided by a series of heats. These were followed by a separate one-off ‘NZGP’ in each class. The facility also hosts horse racing and the aptly named Track provided an opportunity to see machines operating at full tilt, with spectacular sliding turns at each end of the oval.
#23 Alrdridge, racing in the ‘Yamaha Rodgers Motorcycles & Need a Nerd’ Speedway Solos (no gearbox) category, gapped the field by a very healthy margin in each heat and went on to dominate the GP by a similar amount. It was virtually the same story in the ‘Zookeepers Cafe & Spruce Up’ Quads, with George’s #68 consistently putting a large distance between it and the following pack. It was ‘almost’ the same story for Christopher Watson in the ‘South Island Solo Spares and Newfield Autos’ long track solo (with gearboxes) events. The visiting Aussie (and his large contingent of travelling supporters) put in three dominating performances in the heats to take the NZ championship, but a DNF put paid to his NZGP tilt, where local man John Tuffey took the chequered flag. The ‘Dig it Earthmoving’ Sidecars provided equally spectacular slippin’ and slidin’ with Fraser Gillespie and Nigel Cuckow taking the NZ championship while Kevin McDonald & Karl Hosie took the NZGP. It was a very impressive start to BMC with good racing, great venue and a crowd estimated at around 6,000 in good spirits.
Hampton Smashes Hill Climb Record Showery conditions prevailed for the running of second event in the Challenge. It was also warm and humid on the southern tip of the mainland as competitors tackled the ‘Maverick Bluff NZ Road Hill Climb Championships’. The twisty road time trial climbs 1.4km from start gate to finish line and riders were further challenged by the conditions that started wet and dried out somewhat as the event progressed. None of this seemed to make any difference to Christchurch flyer Ryan Hampton who knocked almost three seconds off the existing record with a 46.21 ET on his third run on board the Hampton Honda CBR1000RR. ‘The bike performed very well and I’m very happy to get the win and the record as well’ said the rapidly rising star. ‘We ran Metzler full wet weather tyres all day. We could have gone to a slick or a cut slick later in the event, but it’s only a 50 second run, and the wets are nice and soft and sticky’ he continued.
In the other classes, the Under 600cc was won by Chris Manson from Omaru on a Honda CR500 and the Quads were again won by Tim George in 49.38. In the classics categories the Pre-63 event was won by Chris Swallow (54.12) on a Velocette Venom. The Pre-82’s were won by Chris McMeeken (54.08) on his GS1000. The Pre-89 class went to Kevin Orr (53.20) on his FZR600. It was another fascinating day’s motor sport with the crowds up close to the action and feeling ‘part of it’.
Feaver Ends Beach Drought
Made famous in the ‘World’s Fastest Indian’, the hard Oreti Beach sand again resonated to the sounds of motorcycles going flat out, up and down a mile long circuit. Warm and sunny conditions prevailed at the start of the programme before giving way to light afternoon showers and humid conditions. In a changed format from previous events the sand was left un-graded, the course was moved further down the beach and the start time was revised to a mid-morning green flag - and a full set of races followed.
Jason Feaver from Christchurch on his rebored Honda CR survived a late-race fuel stop to win the feature 50 mile Burt Munro Trophy. Tim George also continued his weekend of dominance on the Quads with another commanding ride in the ‘Zookeepers Championship’. Murray Royal took the spoils in the ‘Jack Daniels’ Classics and Christopher Watson was again commanding, spectacular and a long way in front when the chequered flag fell in the ‘Cabbage Tree NZ Beach Racing Championship’ for bikes up to 500cc. He was a comfortable distance ahead of the pack at the finish of the ‘E Hayes and Sons SMCC’ 1 mile dash for the Mrs Haynes Cup too.
That took us to the featured main where Feaver led from start to finish. He was pushed in the early going by 2008 Trophy winner and local man, Greg Baynes on a KTM 450SX-F, but in the end the Honda had enough of a lead to enable a 45th lap fuel top up to the handlebar mounted auxiliary tank. A lead he maintained to the finish to take his first beach race title since the event was introduced to â€˜the Burtâ€™ Programme. That concluded a spectacular day of speed and flying sand in a celebration of the Munro Spirit.
Hampton takes Teretonga sprint crown
Ryan Hampton continued on his winning (and very fast) way in the ‘E Hayes and Sons’ Sprints as the Teretonga Park meet opened day 3 of the challenge. Among the many highlights were his closely fought wins aboard the Honda CBR1000RR from the flying BMW 1000 SSR piloted by John Ross, also from Christchurch. It was another great performance by Hampton who overcame the variable conditions in a meet that started wet and finished dry and sunny. Ross did manage to reach the top step of the podium by winning the BEARS class, which featured some of the largest fields of the event. Ross’s was also the only machine on the day to crack the sub one-minute barrier for a lap of the picturesque circuit.
Invercargill local Jeremy Holmes won the F2 class on his Honda CBR600RR and Tiamaru’s Johnny Small won the ‘Southland Honda’ F3 event on his Suzuki SV650. Gavin Veltmeyer’s KTM was again the one to beat taking the Super Motard open class, with the 450’s going to John Crawford from Bluff on his Suzuki RMZ450. Sid Chaloner from Te Anau won the Pre ‘89 class on his Yamaha FZR750R, another local man, John Beck, won the Pre ‘82 crown on his Suzuki RGB500 with Tony McQueen from Lower Hutt successful in the Pre ‘72 on a Kawasaki H2 750 and also the Pre ‘63 class on a Norton Dominator 500.
There was some controversy around the pits as one early round of racing was lost due to veteran machines dropping oil on the track and the time it took to clean the surface. One race team manager called for a change in format when he noted that ‘we have guys on Superbikes doing 300kph and on the edge around here while the track is being compromised by the oil dropped by the older bikes.’ There were suggestions that running the newer machine’s full programme in the early part of the meeting would enhance safety. Others I spoke to felt that the ‘rich mixture of fields was all part of the attraction’. Nevertheless the Officials did a good job clearing the track and racing was underway again not long after. Overall it was another splendid meeting held in the Munro spirit, full of great racing and spectacular sights.
Touring Stuntman promotes sport French stunt ace Guillaume Mora put forward an interesting angle on stunting and stunt riding. Not only is he very good at a wide range of tricks, he’s also an advocate of the sport. ‘For a very little expense you can have enjoy motorsport’ he began with a very French accent. ‘With only a few modifications to your bike you can compete, and it is not so expensive as racing’ he reasoned while he was showing us some of the mods to his Kawasaki 636. ‘Cage to protect the engine, modified levers and a steering damper, In fact these things are to help us go slow, so the injuries are not so bad’ he said (while flexing a wrist in a support bandage). He then went out and performed a series of impressive shows that had the crowds very appreciative of the spectacle. It was an unexpected bonus to the weekend. Nice stickers on that bike too.
Tregoning makes it three in a row at Oreti Park
Fraser Gillespie, the President of Oreti Park Speedway, notes in his official’s welcome that the Burt Munro meeting is ‘now in its fifth year’. This means that local champ Grant Tregoning has won 60% of ‘Solos’ Trophies awarded. Even a mechanical failure at the starting tape of the hotly contested final didn’t distract Tregoning. He calmly (or so it appeared) assessed the problem, later identified by his mechanic as ‘a fueling issue’, and called for his backup bike. Seemingly without missing a beat he jumped on the number two machine and after seeing off a spirited challenge by Moore Park’s Larry Ross, lead from turn three all the way to the chequered flag.
Dale Finch, also from Moore Park in Christchurch finished second on the points table and Andy Aldridge never recovered from a bad start in the final to finish third overall. Tregoning described the win as â€˜awesomeâ€™. In the huge field of sidecars Whanganuiâ€™s John Pitt and Kervin Demanser took the hotly contested final. It was another fascinating event on the Burt Munro Programme and big ups to the organisers who managed to get through a 56 race programme and still keep smiling.
Hampton completes the set at Wyndham
Ryan Hampton continued on his winning way in the final leg of the Burt Munro Challenge held in the rural town of Wyndham. A 40-minute ride from Invercargill sees the hamlet transformed into a street racing track with all classes of machines navigating their way around the hay-baled streets at breakneck speeds. Hampton’s ‘Hampton Honda’ CBR1000RR was again the dominant machine at the track and the likable Cantabrian put in another powerful performance to take two of the three heats contested.
The third heat was the only glitch in team Hampton’s entire challenge. According to team Boss Robin Hampton, ‘Ryan missed the start and ended up fourth after the first corner, then on the start straight he committed to an inside pass on Lee Munro which ended up with quite a large tank slapper entering turn one, he managed to save the slapper but ended up too wide exiting the corner, hit some loose hay on the track, then hit the deck. After a very short, abrupt self criticism he was back on the bike and back on the gas, carving through the field. After 3 laps he had got back to fourth and set the unofficial overall lap record for the Wyndam circuit at 36.372.’ Robin then noted ‘I have gone back through My Laps history the best time I can find is Andrew Stroud at 37.567, so in the meantime until someone can verify a quicker time we will claim the record.’ Fantastic stuff!
Lee Munro finished second overall with three 2nd place finishes on his Ducati 999s and Jamie Galway’s Daytona 675 finished third in the ‘Jim Beam’ Formula Wyndham class. Munro was also successful winning the BEARS class races. Bryan Hill from Ashburton claimed the Formula Three title on his SV650 while Gavin Veltmeyer took the Super Motard Open title in a motardtypical series of great dices with Chris Manson and Jason Feaver. Brent Scammell took the Super Motard up to 450cc class on his Honda CRF450RA and brought the crowd to its feet with a huge mono across the line. Kevin Orr’s Yamaha FZR600 took the pre ‘89 class and Sid Chaloner added to his collection of Munro-bilia by winning all three heats in the pre ‘82s on his Suzuki GSX. And Chris Fisken overcame a ‘self-imposed back-marker’s handicap’ to take the Classics with Girder forks class in another fun display. A good crowd, estimated at more than 5,000 stood behind the bales to watch the meet.
The end of the dayâ€™s racing saw the conclusion of the 2010 Burt Munro Challenge. It was again a fantastic event, this year blessed with generally good conditions and great competition. Overall attendance seemed slightly down, but that would be in some part due to the atrocious conditions in â€™09. If the way it panned out this year is any indication, then next year should be a real bumper edition. Bring it on! Congratulations to all who raced, organised and attended. One hell of a weekend.
Ryan Hampton. Team Hampton won everything they entered except one heat at Wyndham (where he crashed, remounted and broke the lap record.) He broke the Hill climb record by almost 3 seconds, won Teretonga and Wyndham on a 3 year old ‘blade. Chris Watson Aussie legend and slide stylist. Won the beach mile dash and his Class, plus he ran away with the Long track and was simply brilliant to watch while doing it. Andrew Aldridge. Watching the way Number 23 dominated the Long Track was a treat, fully tapped and throwing it sideways. Simply outstanding riding with a wave to the crowd as he did it. Grant Tregoning. Nailed his third consecutive Speedway Solos crown and was quite masterful. Style, skill and the professionalism to call for his backup bike when the A-machine failed on the starting line. Class act after the win too. Gavin Veltmeyer For the second year running Gavin’s KTM was the big (over 450) ‘tard’ to beat. As usual, the Motards produced some of the tightest dicing of the event and he mixed it up with several frontrunners before emerging with the hardware at Teretonga and Wyndham. Jason Feaver Won the signature race of the Challenge, The Burt Munro Trophy. 50 miles of seriously hard out stuff and lead from start to finsh.
Six of the best
â€˜Winging it. Part 3
After 5 days of putting together the best BMC coverage we could muster we were ready to hit the road again. Near the end of the Wyndham street race program we re-mounted the â€˜Wing made our way back to the south coast at Fortrose, for our first ride through the Catlins.
After our two previous attempts were abandoned due to near cyclonic weather, it was special to make our way east along the ‘Southern Scenic Route’ ahead of a following sea mist and warm, calm conditions. We fuelled up at Fortrose, which was something of an experience in itself. “I’d like some fuel please’ I said, pointing to the pumps outside the information kiosk and reasonably well patronised restaurant. ‘Are you eating?’ was the reply. ‘Yes please.’ ‘Well I’ll get these other people and you their food and then we’ll get the fuel.’ Said the manager. The ‘Wing stayed parked on the driveway, fuel flap akimbo, while the co-pilot enjoyed the local whitebait fritters and I had another Southland steak.
Big ups to the Invercargill crew who not only recognised the KR insignia while we were there, but were familiar with our Southern touring exploits last year. They gave us the local knowledge and we were off to Curio Bay.
There are sealed or unsealed road options – the unsealed being further towards the coast and closer to the Southernmost tip of the Mainland at Slope Point, or there’s the sealed inland route, which we took, and then doubled back to Curio Bay past Niagra. The fossilised remains of an ancient forest are exposed at Curio Bay during low tide. This is one of the most extensive and least disturbed examples of a Jurassic fossil forest in the world and stretches about 20 kms from Curio Bay south west to Slope Point. It’s not too far from Niagra Falls. There’s a classic bit of Kiwi humour. Duly signposted and named, they are the least impressive waterfalls imaginable. A stormwater gutter sees more action, but they are quite picturesque nonetheless, as are the rest of the Catlins. Not far past Niagra the sign proclaims ‘56km of winding road’ and the route begins to wend its way through the Catlins Forest Park. This outstanding stretch of motorcycle road snakes through steep hills of native bush to the coast at Paptowai, where it continues to wind amongst the foothills that eventually give way to coastal plains and farmland beyond Owaka.
It really was a great ride, absolutely primo, and by the time we arrived at our base for the night, the ‘Nugget View and Kaka Point Motels’ we were very happy travellers. Our host Bruce delighted in pointing out that his bike-friendly digs are ‘just two minutes walk to the bathing and surfing beach, shops and a short bush walk. We also run Twilight Tours, which include Kaka Point, Nugget Point, the lighthouse and the Roaring Bay yelloweyed penguin colony. ‘ We were a bit late for the tour so settled in to a very nice meal at ‘The Point Café and Bar’ just down the hill, where we got the run down on local life and Kaka Point times from the owner, Paddy, who claims to serve the best seafood chowder in NZ. Co-pilot didn’t dispute it. We then retired to our comfortable room and balcony overlooking the town, the point and the sunset where not long after we slept very soundly to the tune of the rolling surf.
Apart from a morning shower or two in Invercargill the weather on this tour had been close to perfect. We had a succession of warm, sunny days with a sea breeze and the way Day 7 on tour started was no exception. It wasn’t hard to look at the sleepy Kaka Point township in these idyllic conditions and think ‘Sea change’, but further adventures awaited so we loaded up the ‘Wing and headed north, for Balclutha. After a short stint on SH 1 we made the turnoff to the southern arm of SH 8 and headed towards Roxburgh, Alexandra and our day’s destination, Cromwell. It wasn’t our original plan, but it worked out great to have completed the length of ‘eight’ in two separate stages, meeting in the middle.
Along the coastal fringe the road winds through foothills lined with dense pine, beech and eucalypt forests, before joining the Clutha River valley, which it follows until the climb to Central Otago. The terrain changes from a kaleidoscope of green, yellow and dense lushness, to fertile valley rich in agriculture, to rocky wilderness, in the space of 50km, before descending to the wide, rolling highland plains.
Coming in to Alexandra the on board thermometer showed 30c and the sun was blazing. We stopped for a photo under the Alexandra bridge before heading towards Clyde, the dam and the Cromwell gorge.
Tussock Hills Licensed Restaurant/Café For motorcyclists, a friendly spot to stop and eat good food comes secondary to the ride, but when you get hungry and maybe even a little saddle sore, the priority changes a tad. Eileen and Robert Porter offer a place to fix this. Tussock Hills Licensed Restaurant/Café is situated on the main drag of Roxburgh, state highway 8, midway between Milton and Cromwell, Central Otago. Enthusiasts all their lives until a bad accident put an end to Roberts riding days, the Porter’s welcome motorcyclists. Only a couple of hundred metres from what is now their café, a car pulled a U-turn in front of them. Both were on life support for 10 days, amazingly, they both survived, but Robert lost a leg. The Porters offer a great variety of food and beverages and from what we ate, of great quality. So, when next you find yourselves in Roxburgh, drop in and say hello to some kindred spirits. Co-pilot.
Itâ€™s a fascinating ride through the gorge as the road skirts the reaches of Lake Dunstan all the way to the bridge at Cromwell. The gorgeâ€™s volcanic formations are spectacular, as are some of the engineering works that stabilise the hillsides above the lake.
We were only a few minutes late as we crossed the bridge and pulled in to our destination at the ‘Hills of Gold Bed and Breakfast’, run by Central Otago Motorcycle Hire. I have a few friends that do things ‘properly’ and they were the ones who my experience with Dave and Janeen’s B&B/bike hire business reminded me of. Dave’s a bloke has made that ‘Sea change’ we talked about at Kaka Point. Left the corporate world behind and used his nous to set up a business that left us very impressed. On his Cromwell property is a shed that I imagine if ‘Aladdin’ was a biker and resided in Otago, this would be his cave. Several Hogs, a GS, a few V-stroms, couple of Trans Alps, numerous 250 trailies and scooters, with helmets, jackets and kit to suit all of them – all for hire and available to ride around one of the most spectacular regions, anywhere – and we struck it all in perfect weather. ‘C’mon, I’ll show you a bit of our back yard’ said ‘other’ Dave. So it turned out an hour after I arrived, 2 Daves and a Duffy were fanging up the side of Ben Nevis.
Co-pilot stayed at base and wrote while I climbed aboard a Rental Trans Alp and ‘the others’ grabbed Honda Trailies. We then travelled along NZ’s highest public road to its summit, snapped a few pics and descended to the Nevis Valley floor. It was real LOTR country and it provided my first chance to marvel at the Remarkables from the other, eastern, side as we made our way along the easy gravel road to Nevis, ‘Population 3 - sometimes 14.’ We had a scratch around the old mining equipment in the valley, visited the ‘golf club’ and messed about in a few water crossings (there are 25 on the Nevis road) before heading back for a cleansing ale at the Bannockburn pub and the ensuing (superb pure NZ) BBQ and bottle (or two) of the local Pinot at comotorcycles.co.nz central. We then retired to the very comfortable B&B, which sleeps up to five. It’s a place I could have spent a week exploring, maybe next time. Highly recommended!
Day 8 on tour dawned with us feeling slightly bleary and the weather somewhat the same. Warm, overcast to cloudy conditions greeted our retracing of SH8 back to the coast below Ashburton, where we wheeled north and followed that little red arrow on the GPS back to Hampton Honda’s front door. A bit over an hour later we were on a plane heading back to the big smoke. It took me a few days in the office for the reality check that entailed to wear off. What a remarkable odyssey we’d just undertaken, full of amazing places and engaging people. Motorcycle touring in the lower south Island is a truly superb experience particularly in the perfect conditions we enjoyed this year. It’s another world where all that matters is you, the road, the incredible place and your machine. A world where how far to the next fuel stop, the beat of the engine, the rhythm of the road and the imminent weather are the priorities, and the humdrum of the day to day is long forgotten. What a place to do it. Go do it. It’s simply outstanding and we’re glad to have had the opportunity to tell everyone.
Honda Gold Wing GL1800 Our Burt Munro coverage this year allowed us to do a proper tour test on the ‘Wing. We racked up almost 2,000km touring Godzone on Hampton Honda’s demo unit and could easily have continued for another 5,000! I think the biggest injustice you can do to a Goldwing is call it soft, but that’s what people (who probably haven’t ridden) the 1800cc luxury tourer tend to do – or tended to call me riding it. Co-pilot even had ‘hardness’ issues with loving the back seat so much. And I did protest-eth exactly as they intended. It’s just not! This machine is simply not the domain of some old dodderer. It takes some skill for a smaller bloke, or a full man-size unit, and a lot of him, to deal to it. Not once the wheels are turning and your feet are up, then it’s as well mannered as any traditional heavy tourer. No, this unit has a curb weight of 405kg, add a Big Dave and a Co-pilot, their gear for a week, several cameras and lenses, a lap top, all the chargers – and we’re talking well over 600kg. I treated it like a normal bike, parked it off the tarmac and on gravel quite a lot, and it needs a good size toehold on terrafirma just for getting the passenger on and off, or should I say ‘in and out’ of its consecutive lounge chairs. It does have a reverse gear operated by the starter motor, but I hardly used it on tour, it’s quicker to park it facing uphill or just wheel it back out of a flat spot by foot. There were a few ‘oops’ occasions that I did find it useful too. There is no denying that it’s a very easy bike to live on, but soft? Get real.
It has a 1,832cc, liquid cooled, SOHC flat six pumping out 167nm or torque at 4,000 rpm and a lazy 87kw at 5,500rpm. Lazy as in it doesn’t need a lot of effort to get it wound up, but wind it up you can and it will scoot along quite rapidly. Drop it down a few cogs and there is no shortage of overtaking mumbo. Transmission is via a 5-speed overdrive gearbox that needed quite a thorough click into gear and the final drive is by a tidy shaft. Like most modern shaft drives you can make it slop – but it takes an effort to do so. Because the flat six sits so low in the chassis and all the running gear is equally low-down, the bike is far more nimble (when going) than it looks. It has 45mm air assist forks (with antidive) and 122mm travel up front and Pro-Link Pro-Arm with electronically controlled spring preload adjustment and 105mm of travel at the rear. It makes for a lovely ride. It really does. You sit in these beautifully comfortable lounge chairs that just happen to have good overtaking prowess, handling and simply wonderful brakes. Delightful brakes. I found throwing it in to some of the Catlin’s twisties a joyous thing. Hauling all that bike and cargo up from a good clip is a one finger, effortless, ‘oh yes!’, affair. The linked system, with ABS, on 296mm three piston full floaters front and 316mmm single pot rear is superb. The only time I noticed the linkage was when stomping on the rear brake for the novelty of watching the front end dip slightly. Only slightly because the Honda Antidive front end works.
Keeping it all in contact with the tarmac is a 130/70R-18 front tyre and a sportsbike-like 180/60R-16 Rear. Along with the low COM, the 1690mm wheelbase adds to the package’s stability and the way it feels ‘wallow free’ and quite stable when cornering – almost in spite of the massive payload. It doesn’t deviate from a line unless you tell it to. Its limitation is lean angle. Whilst how far it can tip does benefit from the pair of broad rider footpegs (rather than the footboards that some other bikes in the class offer), but the sheer size and girth of the machine means that it runs out of lean angle well before it runs out of handling capability. That said – it will still go around the 70’s at 100 and is pleasant doing so, considering long distance work is its real forte and I only scraped them a few times and considering where we were riding...
Co-pilot reluctantly admitted she liked the thermometer and the rear seat storage compartments (glove boxes) and is now a fan of heated seats (but don’t tell anyone). The only thing still missing from the list is a power operated windscreen, but conversely, I didn’t have too many issues with manually adjusting it. I did really like the way the capacious luggage dealt with all of our production kit and still had room for a six pack to spare. I liked how I could roll off some mainland touring distances and feel like I could keep going, and going and going when I got to the destination. Fuel stops are pretty well spread too. We got around 300km before the fuel light appeared and there’s still 4 litres of the 25 it carries available at that point.
Accoutrement. My computer dictionary defines it as ‘additional items of dress or equipment’. The ‘Wing is the granddaddy. It has accoutrements on the accoutrements. If it exists for a motorcycle, it’s probably already on the ‘Wing. They are a bonus bike for a lazy reviwer. You can fill up a word count simply by listing the accessories fitted. Air bag, sat nav, cruise control, stereo, radio, all the plumbing, electronic pre load adjustment, self cancelling blinkers, heated ‘everythings’, right down to illuminated handlebar controls. Log on to Honda-motorcycles.co.nz and take in the full list. Luxury. Even living on it for a week, I didn’t use all of its luxury touches, but I did appreciate those things that I did get my head around.
After a solid week on one I find it’s no wonder that some ‘Wing owners have over racked up massive milage on their machines. They roll away big distances with remarkable ease and have built a solid reputation as one that keeps going and going and going, far beyond the 2 year, unlimited km warranty offered by Honda. If your idea of the good life is days on the road in comfort, with equipment to do it with optimum efficiently, then you should check out the Honda Powerhouse dealer’s demo offers on new ‘wings. Don’t listen to any of the ‘soft or old’ malarkey that gets thrown at these magnificent machines. At around $46k retail they are a significant investment, but wow, don’t they do what they do well. With accoutrements on top.
Overall it was a great test.
Co Pilot’s Honda Gold Wing Review You won’t get any technical jargon from me, nor will you get a rider’s handling perspective, however, for all you co-pilots out there, you will get a comfort rating and a back seat rider’s perspective on how this motorcycle performs. Riding conditions were almost perfect, no rain, snow, hail, sleet or gale force winds like last years’ Burt. Instead, we had temperatures fro 18c – 32c, with an occasional gust of wind that took me by surprise (woke me from a therapeutic slumber). From my point of view, fellow co-pilots, the comfort of this motorcycle is off the radar!! Out of all the motorcycles I have had the pleasure to co-pilot test ride, this is the Shangri-La of them all. My only concern is that in the state of
half sleep, in that moment before sound sleep arrives and the body makes its final comfort adjustment, you simply cannot tuck your feet up on the lounge next to you – you have a nanosecond of disappointment in the half sleep world, before you wake up and realise you are not on your favourite lounge at home, instead you are out doing what you love the most, from the comfort of your own lounge chair. Luggage accommodation is important whilst touring. My only criticism is that when you arrive at you digs for the night, you can’t take the panniers inside with you. Instead, your clothing is unceremoniously extracted from the panniers in old supermarket bags – good look when entering a 5 star motel (or any motel for that matter). The great thing about the Gold
Wing, is we easily fitted 3 movie cameras, 1 (pretty special) camera with an assortment of lenses, laptop, microphone and the paraphernalia that goes along with it to make it all work; plus Big Dave’s assorted favourite T-Shirts, dragon jeans, (not so) smalls, jandals, shorts and the “good” shirt, as well as my clothing pile that was half the size of his pile, my toiletries (which were twice the size of his pile) – plus a copy of Kiwi Rider magazine, which all fitted with ease! For me – this is the best and the most comfortable motorcycle touring experience I have had in 30 years of touring. It was a pretty colour too – matched my nail polish!! Co-pilot.
BIKE GL1800 Gold Wing
Type: Twin-Spar Aluminum
Swingarm: Pro-Arm® Rear Suspension
Rake: 29° 15’
Type: Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 12-valve SOHC flat – 6 cylinder
Front suspension: 45mm air assist telescopic fork with anti-dive 122mm
LxWxH: 2,635 x 945 x 1,455mm
Rear suspension: Pro-Link Pro-Arm with electronically controlled spring
Seat height: 740mm
Bore x stroke: 74 x 71mm
9.8 : 1
preload adjustment, 105mm axle travel
Kerb weight: 405kg (F: 185kg; R: 220kg) includes all standard equipment,
Starting system: Electric
Brakes: Front Dual full-floating 296mm discs with CBS three-piston
required fluids and a full tank of fuel - ready to ride
Engine management system: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI)
Fuel tank capacity: 25 litres (including 4-litre warning light reserve)
Fuel system: PGM-FI with auto choke
RearSingle ventilated 316mm disc with CBS three-piston caliper, ABS
Transmission: 5 Speed with reverse
Wheels: Hollow-section cast aluminium
Test bike: Hampton Honda
Final drive: Enclosed Shaft
Tyres Front 18 x MT3.50 Tyres Rear 16 x MT5.00
To find out more: KIWIRIDER Magazine www.kwirider.co.nz Venture Southland www.southlandnz.com Ascot Park Hotel www.ascotparkhotel.co.nz Nugget View & Kaka Point Hotels www.catlins.co.nz Central Otago Motorcycle Hire www.comotorcyclehire.co.nz