The Car Conundrum
We have one of those sickening lifestyles that you often see in adverts for SUVs. Cute dog, beautiful scenery, camping by a river somewhere with bikes loaded up, wanky coffee on the boil and artisanal breakfast nonsense from _that place_. Off to the office during the week with a gay skip in our step.
I’d love to go off and buy something like the new Land Rover Defender or a Ford Bronco or a Toyota 4Runner. We actually nearly did, but the thing is with this lifestyle I wouldn’t really like to take a 60-80 THOUSAND dollar vehicle to do the things we do and places we go.
Picture the scene. Its raining. You’re completing a ride on a soggy day where the clay soil has become claggy like an aunts desert that sticks to the roof of your mouth. What you want to do is get in a warm car and home to a bath. You throw the grossest of outer clothing in, hide from the rain and the dog leaps over the seats to settle on the center console forming some kind of dirty protest.
You ease out of the space you squeezed into at the trail head, past the fallen tree and through some thorn pushes, pinstriping the sides with screeeeech.
Picture that scene with a new Defender, all shiny black with matching murdered out wheels.
Unless you’re, well frankly rich, there is no way you’re treating your modern SUV like that. And, they’re not really made for that kind of action. I’ve not looked at the Bronco, but the Land Rover and the Jeep have interiors that would look second hand fairly quickly. Never mind the paint.
Our car is great. It has the benefits of a Japanese shitbox, pickup truck, small van and 4×4 with the price of 2/3 the last bike (yes with pedals) I bought.
The killer feature for me is the tailgate. It’s a FUCKING BENCH! How cool is it to finish your sportif and park off on the special seat that deploys from the back of your car. Pickup Truck! You say? Try getting changed in the back of one of those things, anyway, our bench seat has a roof. The only other car that has one of these currently is a Range Rover, because – expensive.
Other cool things are…
-Massive side opening – the rear doors are suicide.
-Flat Floor – no transmission tunnel bump… which leads on to the rear seats… they not only fold up, completely out of the way, but also totally flat (so the whole car becomes a bed) AND they come out with the pull of a lever, rendering your car into a van. It’s also rubber. Very wipe clean for those casual murders.
-Economy of a 4 cylinder Honda, albeit a err… quite boxy one for the aero.
-All wheel drive
-Huge interior – I mean voluminous. I sometimes end up wearing a helmet in the car and still have a huge amount of space above my head. So much space we even made a bed inside it and have been on some fun trips.
-Removable cooler box between the seats; we removed it and that’s now Bruce’s spot.
Did I mention it was a Honda?
I mean there are some shitty things about it. The body for a start. You make a shell with freaking massive holes in the sides and it’s going to flex. Now I don’t mean flex in the car Journalist “I can feel the flex in the corners” kinda way, I mean in the “fuck me! Are the doors shut or are we going to fall to a shaved meat death” kinda way. People new to the car actually try to shut the door again whilst in motion because they think they were incompetent in closing them. No, just suspect engineering in the body-in-white department. Never the less, cool doors.
Then there is the suspension. When we bought ours I had all the struts replaced. At Honda. With OEM Honda parts, which proved to be almost entirely a waste of time. I’m almost certain there is no noticeable damping in the rear struts because when you round a speed bump the rear end oscillates about three times before stabilizing. Picture one of those 70s Cadillacs. So, mountain roads fully loaded with bumps on the apex cause the whole car to hop about three feet in the wrong direction. The brakes are almost as bad too.
Oooh and the noise. The engine sounds like it belongs in a ship’s pump room and the interior sounds just like that room. There is no sound proofing anywhere. I added about 40lbs of the stuff when I upgraded the sound system, but it still sounds like the inside of a cement factory. The tyres we just put on it make that comically worse.
The main shitty thing about it is that something might happen to it. Because if it did I would have to go and buy something else. They are getting rare and parts are hard to get hold of.
If only Honda would build a new one. I’d be on it like hot snot.
It’s all gone Orange
I succumbed to the YOLO. I think the itch went from one of those “groinal that I’m going to scratch through my pocket and hope no one sees” to unbutton flys and make like grating cheese” when I went for a ride with a friend on his KTM 390, (me on the Ducati) just after COVID hit. Our tarmac ended and turned to dirt. It really bothered me that I couldn’t have that lovely drifty feeling that transitioning from tarmac to dirt gives you. Instead we awkwardly scooted 180 in the road whilst being iced with dirt by speedy pickups.
Of course the beloved Africa Twin was top of the pops for knobbles. What more could one want? I mean, if you’re reading this you’ll know that I have spent almost too much time aboard the Japanese African and regard it as the ultimate tool to cross a continent both ways. Then that niggle starts. Weight. I’m not going to be zigging then zagging across this massive land mass like before. I need fun. Bursts of fun and something that could do a distance.
Aah the hunt. Back to the hunt.
Since I bought Ginko, my beloved Africa Twin, there have been two iterations of the species. The first was a basic mutation with a little refresh and an ‘Adventure Sport’, then the 2020 version showed its head and increased the engine size and a load of other changes, including Apple Car Play. This both super turned me on and off at the same time. The bike got bigger and more complicated. DARN. I wanted smaller and less complicated.
Yamaha Tenere T700. They’re onto a winner with that thing. It’s light, sleek, simple and looks like a super cool Paris Dakar rally raid weapon. By all accounts it looks like the most sensible choice. The press really like it and it’s priced right. So right, in fact, that they nearly sold out in British Columbia. But round the corner something with kinda evil eyes and bulging pecs was looking. Looking and beckoning.
After asking a dealer near me about the T7 his allocation was out and he said “I bet you just walked straight past that 790 out there?” I did. All those KTMs look the same to me; anyway the headlight is weird. And that started it. The obsessive reading and watching. Work has been mental and my mental break has been research. Nerdy research. Youtube, forums, Instagram, Reddit, hell… even Facebook. I was in deep.
So here it is. My brand new 2020 KTM 790 Adventure R (yet to be christened, Hedy is in the running).
So, wossitlike?? Well. The difference is like a well worn pair of dress shoes versus a pair of fell running shoes, or Chinos versus those new jeans that are like wearing jogging pants. It’s sprightly and lithe. When I dropped Anne off after we came back from the dealer I went off for a quick scoot around the neighborhood and ended up airing off two dropped kerbs and railing a grass bank. Naughty. Fun. Involved and sprightly. I haven’t even run it in yet.
I bought a shitty Ducati
You’ve probably thought the random ramblings added to an end but, oh no, the hiatus has been broken by probably the worst decision in Motorcycle purchases I’ve made in my 40+ years. I mean, who, in their right mind would buy a blue 20 year old touring Ducati that had been left under a tree by its uncaring owner for the last 6 years?!
One buys a Ducati because it’s cool and fast. The mechanical quirks and crap 90s Italian build quality are part of the experience that are rewarded by the coolness and speed. My Ducati has neither, but double the problems .
It was a incredibly sad for me to sell Ginko. I’m one of those people who form emotional bonds to their vehicles and my relationship with Ginko was a particularly strong one after all we had been through together. If I had the resources I would have just kept her for ever…. buuuut I had a bit of a Tax problem and needed to pay. Financially that was probably the worst timing too; I mean, who buys a brand new model year bike, rides it 20,000km and then sells it months later? Stupid.
So so feeling very lonely and geographically trapped by the new city I moved to, whilst the love of my life was on the other coast, I feverishly parsed craigslist for cheapo bikes to fill the void. I had a $2,000 budget and flipped the virtual pages of Craigslist like a teenage boy who had found a porno. I would really have liked a Honda but nothing even remotely sensible came up, then I saw it. A blue and gold Ducati ST2 with panniers. Ask anyone I went to university with, ive wanted a Ducati for decades. All the mental flags that I normally would notice as a warning we’re ignored through the pink mist that was the prospect of being on two powered wheels again.
I saw saw the advert and rushed out to Delta from Downtown Vancouver as quickly as I could. When I arrived at the suburban two car garage house there were two blokes standing beside the bike. First flag. To me, it’s pretty rude to have two buyers at the same time, this guy wanted rid of this bike quickly. It turned out Mr “I bet she’s fast, how big is it” had never owned a bike before. Even without knowing what I do now about the bike this dude would have been in a world of pain if he had bought this thing. So after dispensing with him I took the thing for a test ride. It was terrible. The battery was obviously flat/knackered, the clutch was dragging, the brakes wooden, chain slack, tyres square and the fueling was so bad the thing would die after shutting off the throttle. So I bought it.
Some of the things this Ducati abuser did really confuse me. The man had a garage but kept the bike on his drive under the worst sap and pollen producing tree I have set my eyes on. I mean, the bike had a literal crust of disgusting yellow and all the exposed fastenings were oranged with rust. I know this from historic Google street view photos six years outside! He had bought a brand new Motorcycle Guzzi to replace the Ducati but when I borrowed his helmet it was ancient, like sticking a tin pot on my head; who buys a $20k bike and doesn’t have a new helmet in 20 years?
Boy did I get in trouble. The bike needed new tires so badly, so I took it into Daytona Motorsport which is a very convenient 5min walk from my office. I discussed tyres and they had some in stock. Naïvely I assumed they wouldn’t price gouge me; this being the age of the internet, where brick and mortar stores really need to keep customers happy. I was super busy in my new job and left it with them, approving a new chain over the phone during a meeting. I got to the shop and was presented with a bill for over $1000. I wasn’t best pleased with myself and neither was Anne, for good reason. We were paying two rents and the cost of moving was straining after the aforementioned tax issues caused by yours truly.
What an idiot.
Relationships and Travel – Video
It’s been a year now since I went and even longer for c90 adventurer Ed March.
Ed and Rachael crossed Canada in winter then did the whole Trans America Trail on 90cc scooters. It took them a while but props to them. The video below describes their journey across the best bit of the trail and the tribulations of travel as a couple with different agendas.
Grab your favourite hot beverage and enjoy 50min of great adventure film!
Jolene The Jeep
I have this problem. I tend to humanise my vehicles and some people think it’s a bit weird. My logic tells that because a vehicle is such a complicated arrangement of thousands of parts they tend to, after some time, gain a character of sort. I’m not saying they could tell a dirty joke, or be nice to your mom but they have tendencies and quirks.
Our Jeep is no different.
Very shortly after moving to Montreal we knew that escape from the city on a regular basis was essential for our sanity. This city is very dense and I’m not going to lie, quite francophone. The close border beckons for the cultural closeness of our American cousins as does the Quebec countryside for the vastness of the outdoors. A car it was then…
The purchase requirements were:
- Under $4000
- Able to sleep in the back
- Four Wheel Drive
Canada is full of cheapskates. I think there must be a very strong Scottish strain here, so people use this god awful free-ads site (actually owned by Ebay) called Kijiji. I was on it, graphing price to millage ratios of all the vehicles using Mural.ly. I can go into that another time, but eventually I had a load of cars at the right point in the curve and went to see them. They were all Subaru Legacy Outbacks. They were all totally fucked. Subaru engines have two cylinder heads and most were blown, some had horrific knocks meaning, pretty much, a new engine. “Er.. yeah, I have to talk to my… er… BYE!”
Whilst circling the Subaru plughole I noticed a Jeep Liberty (Cherokee in the UK) in a dodgy dealer lot and couldn’t believe the price. Off home I went to crouch over car forums and look at “top 10 reasons why you should never buy a Jeep” and other alarmist stuff you always come across.
So the crosshairs moved and we ended up with Jolene the Jeep from Joliette, a small town North East of Montreal.
She had 114,000km, looked pretty clean and was mechanically (as far as I could tell at the time) sound.
Bosh. Money down and off I go. WHAT?? You pay sales tax on used cars in Quebec??? WTF?? No wonder there are people driving round in things Fred Flintstone would be ashamed of. Oooh yeah, there is no Government inspection either. Another reason for the mobile scrapyard that is some neighbourhoods. Anyway, I paid the massive tax and got a numberplate. Sorry, ‘licence plate’! Why do N.Americans need to do that to everything? It isn’t even a licence.
If there is one thing I can’t stand in the world is people who have things and don’t use them. SUVs, for instance. All those poor depressed Range Rovers pottering around town with metro sexual, manicured, selfie pouting idiots at the helm. Poor things. They sit on their Suburban roads and driveways dreaming of leaving the tarmac and it never happens.
We went the other way. Bought the cheapest 4×4 we could, threw a load of gear on it and headed to the most dirty and rough places we could.
One of these places necessitated a three hour trip to get 9km up a mountain. Where we slept. A Canadian Tyre foam mattress was the bed. I had constant paranoid dreams that the battery would go flat and I’d have to hike back up the mountain after sourcing a battery from some abandoned logging machinery. It never did happen, but I guess that comes from always looking to park my car on a hill when I was younger and bump starting it by running, pushing the door frame and jumping in. The joys of a manual transmission.
Shortly after that we got the ARB roof tent (another Kjiji find) from the outgoing distributer selling at rock bottom. That thing is great. Shove the pillows, lamp and duvet in and drive off into the sunset. When you get somewhere, be it ankle deep water, knee deep snow or glorious beach, you unzip the cover and yank the ladder. It just pops up and you have an instant warm and cosy bedroom. A coleman stove, foldable sink and some plastic dollar store drawers make up the kitchen in the back.
Now I think it’s a great vehicle but I would in no way recommend anyone buy one. They are just too old. I have worked out that we have spent the equivalent in purchase and maintenance over the time we have had Jolene as the lease cost of something like a Toyota Fourunner. Would I have done differently? Well, no. We didn’t have the choice of a new vehicle because we were new arrivals to the country and would have been laughed off the lot. Immigrants, very untrustworthy.
Jolene is running as well as she does because of the massive number of parts that have been changed… here is a non-exhaustive list..
Water pump, rocker cover gaskets, transfer box gasket, battery, Co2 sensors (3), wheel bearings (3), springs (4), crank sensor, shocks, brake callipers (5), brake disks (4), alternator, AC Pump (and the gas that soon leaked out), rocker panels, wheels, snow and dirt tyres.
I gave up replacing the sensors in the exhaust because there are four of them and every time one goes another fails. Oooh and now the speedometer doesn’t work which a caused highly entertaining 140kph full acceleration incident. I should really fix that, only because cruise control is great on super long trips.
A lot of this is down to the truly horrific conditions of Quebec roads and the winters, but I doubt if there are many Liberties on the road that have had that much TLC. You can acutely see this by looking at the way they sit; the springs are all saggy and they bounce over bumps with loud clanks.
Besides this, Jolene has only let me down once when the water pump failed. All other times I noticed the problems before they got too bad.
Now creeping up on 190,000 km I have stopped apologising for the caked mud, rust and random smelly body amor and hidden socks clinging on and into Jolene. It’s now part of her character and always will be, she’s a real SUV that is used as such.
A Tamiya Africa Twin. Joy!
Getting your bike fix in the Quebec winter is hard. But then Tamiya shines a bright light on the subject with this 1/6 scale kit…
It’s pretty big for a model and is made from hundreds of plastic and metal parts. All of it needs to be painted and finished with great care. Here is Tamiya’s post about the reveal.
As a young teen I was completely obsessed with the Japanese model maker’s products. Now they are making an Africa Twin. I suppose I’m going to have to wait until it comes out, but save all my pennies because it’s not cheap.
She’s gone to sleep
I have covered my feelings about how much Quebec hates motorcyclists here, but one of the most frustrating elements of this is that you are forced to take your bike off the road for four months. They don’t actually ban you from riding your bike in winter, they simply introduced a law that says you must have officially sanctioned winter tyres on your motorbike.
Of course, they don’t exist
Now I don’t want Ginko to live on the deck all winter… even under her super waterproof and breathable British Oxford cover…
This means finding a place for Ginko to hibernate Continue reading She’s gone to sleep