Africa Twin – It Came!

You know when you’re just into your work on a Monday morning? You’ve looked at all the crappy email and stupid Facebook posts then work tasks and juuuust started past the procrastination? Yeah, I was there and my phone rings. Well.. last week my friend Pierre pranked me on the phone by trying to make out he was the dealership and the bike was here. But this time it was the dealer.

Bike Start
The goofy look you get when you first start your new bike

The work I needed to do seemed to take a solar cycle, then I got hold of my boots, jacket and helmet and headed to the bank for the giant cheque; walking down the street like a vagrant in flip-flops trying to hold a really awkward, heavy leather jacket over one arm and a backpack, boots in a crappy plastic bag and a helmet in the other.

The bank queue was…  … have you seen the situation in Zimbabwe with lines for US Dollars going from the town to the bush? Then I stumble out the bank clutching all this crap and try to hail a cab. I hate taxis. Nearly as much as waiting to pay at restaurants. For some reason the whole interaction really irritates me. Uber is so much of a better service.

BoxI get to Excel Moto was shown the giant box, introduced to the charming, professional, charismatic and incredibly tolerant of idiot customers who want their toys, Franklyn, the chief wrench. Why do they call them ‘techs’ in the ‘States? They aren’t ‘technicians’ they are mechanics. I have to apologise to poor Frank because I asked him about himself then got totally distracted when we approached the box and started ignoring him!


The video serves the story, but the TL:DR is:

Opened box, removed frame, forklifted bike to workshop, lifted bike with winch on ceiling, fitted front fender and wheel, fitted screen, laughed about ridiculously small tool set, fitted stupidly difficult to install battery, filled with fuel and started. With glee.

I handed the cheque over, did the paperwork and Ali l asked me if there was anything I didn’t know about the bike as that was normally the point where he would brief customers about the bike. The man knew by then what a total nerd he was dealing with. A nerd who had already read a scanned version of the manual online. I slung my gear on, pushed Ginko out, fired her up and wobbled off whilst trying to work out what the computer was doing with the clutch.

Next time on Jason’s fascinating world of motorbike adventures; a ride!IMG_7775

Closed Track Test in Quebec

Photoshop those stripes out and this is me today… cruising to 100%. In a tennis court.

Having passed the, really quite difficult snd stressful, theory test a few weeks ago I got to hang around in a car park of a government facility with a gaggle (what is the collective noun for motorcyclists?) of downy feathered noob ducklings and their instructors. Truth be told, a fair few of these blokes ain’t that green because a few of them have been riding around on their new toys already. Naughty! I felt a bit of a fraud in my fly encrusted Dainese leather jacket and battered Sidi boots whilst they had all this shiny new kit on.

Anyhow, after grabbing the necessary paperwork the first confusion started “Where is your attestation from the riding school that you have taken the course?”; I didn’t need it… paperwork… bureaucracy.. etc.


Sooo…  the ‘Closed Track Test’ consists of testing basic motorbike skills with seven tasks and is introduced by a lovely examiner who, after wheeling various sensors around and setting up, the proceed to describe each task at great length with hilarious anecdotes. None of which I understood because of his incredible accent. Oh and because I can’t understand a word of Quebecois.

Closed track test
Boring scene of the SAAQ test area

Despite getting there 20 minutes early, due to the whole missing attestation thing I ended up almost last to hop on the weird belt driven 650cc cruiser that the very lovely Morties Driving School rented me. Actually, thinking of it… $110 is the most I have spent on a ride that lasted less than five minutes. The money, for Morty, is really in having four brand new bikes and an instructor hanging around all morning. You can use your own bike, but you’d have to ride it there and that would be illegal; not that I have a bloody bike yet, nor any idea when it will arrive. How come I can buy a pair of earbuds from China for $4.99 and get notified if the package handler in the Chicago depot farts but no-one at Honda Canada knows where the massive box containing my hugely expensive motorbike is?

Back to the tasks… On the weird cruiser thing, have a go with the clutch; brakes seem nippy and scoot off to your man toting the clipboard and massive control box with the aerial. He could have been a crane operator in another life. Seemingly cool with me not understanding a word, he repeats what seemed like very verbose French instructions in curt friendly English.

Task One – Gears and Stop

“Second gear and stop by the red” – Off we go through the little flappy tabs glued to the asphalt, second gear and stop.

Task Two – Slalom

Scribble scribble “Now slalom! Second gear by the yellow tabs then slalom” says examiner man. Second gear left right left then back to the start down the middle.

Task Three – Slow Race

“Now slow test!” The idea here is you go through these sensors that measure in, out and time in the special zone. I must say; cruisers are weird. Having your feet in front of you really doesn’t do balance any good. Hence why the theory test had so many questions about counterbalancing. So you ride up to the sensors, lower your speed and have to ride between two points in five seconds or longer.

Task Four – Slow Corner

“Go round here and come back” – A mildly tight 90º corner and back to the same spot.

Task Five – Cornering

“So now round in a fast circle.” – Just imagine riding round the perimeter of a tennis court in second gear. That’s what I did.

Task Six – Emergency Manoeuvre

“20km/h look at the arrow… go that way”. He points to a light box at the end that looks like this [<-O->]. When you have reached 20km/h the arrow left or right arrow lights up randomly. You go that way. One of my compatriots went the opposite way and he was still fine.

Task Seven –  Emergency Braking

“Same thing as before; now stop when it’s red!” He nods, I do the strangely alien (as there is nothing for tens of meters around us) check left, right, left drummed into us by Mortie’s instructors and set off to my 20km/h and slam on the anchors.

Mr 80s electronics then cheerfully tells me I aced it and that “You’ll pass the road test no problem” and sends me off with a pink paperclip fastened bundle of papers where I negotiate the multitude of weird foreigners attempting to get Quebec driving legal in the SAAQ hall of red LED hieroglyphics displays.

Two hours later, after waiting ages then chatted to by a lovely teller who was very apologetic, I leave lighter of wallet, mildly confused with another test booked for a week’s time.

I suppose, at least I get to miss all this BS…




Update: here’s a video showing the whole thing

Continue reading Closed Track Test in Quebec

The wait gets worse

After the traumatic choosing of the bike and the whole explanation of why and actually ordering the thing news comes in from Japan.

Picture my first experience of Japan; I was in a Hotel external doorway half naked, holding a pair of shoes, with a courier bag over my shoulder wondering what how the hell I was going to contact Anne if the city fell into ruins. On the 23rd floor the next door building looked like a ship’s mast in a gale. Oh dear.

Alarming and illegible
Alarming and illegible

The big Tsunami was in recent memory for the population and the TV came on with a very aliased map overlaid on the hard hat wearing news anchor. All the text was illegible to me and there were red flashing areas so I got the hell out as soon as possible. I think what I am saying is that I understand from a first hand point of view how scary even the idea of an Earthquake or Tsunami can be. Never mind one where Honda factories get damaged.

So a message appears on the Africa Twin forum with an internal letter from Honda telling all the dealers that the Kumamoto factory has been damaged and that the 40 bikes sitting in the factory that are destined for Australia have been damaged.

Bugger. Continue reading The wait gets worse

Africa Twin

Quebec has really shit roads. Worse could be had when we went to visit my Dad on base in Mom’s MG-B, but that’s because every time we saw a pot-hole we thought we were literally going to die. Landmines do that to you. Rhodesian Army had a vehicle called a Pookie, which was a great testament to our engineering brilliance, but I digress. Quebec has worse roads than most third world countries I have been in. So why would you ride anything other than an off road bike?

There has always been something in me that needs a motorbike and because of the these reasons I chose the Africa Twin: Continue reading Africa Twin

The Licence Problem

Quebec is a funny place. It isn’t really Canada but something trying to be it’s own country. The border to Ontario is about 40min away but the rules are very very different. Quebec hates motorcyclists and are trying their hardest to neuter the culture of motorcycling by making it extremely expensive and difficult to get on a bike.

Test Nonsense
It’ll take more than that…

So, you come to the province with your licence from another country, like the UK and they say… “sure you can swap it, lets just take your photo and here is your lovely plastic card.” You look at it and say “… er… hangon, where the hell is my Motorbike endorsement?” Continue reading The Licence Problem


There are a few bikes that all the nerds that occupy the myriad of web forums agree on, bikes that are known by most experienced motorcyclists as dependable and well engineered. The VFR800F is one. Yeah it might have a bit of a 90s look to it (which I love), but the engine is based on an incredibly well engineered endurance bike with gears driving the camshafts. Gears! Most cars have some kind of elastic band driving the uneven rods that spin half the speed of the engine. Not the ‘F’. You get metal meshing gears.

Park life

In all my time owning and being a total brain sponge nerd about various VFRs I have never heard of an engine failure. Awesome. Then Honda stuck a chain in there. Aah well. Better than a rubber band I suppose. Continue reading Interceptor

Wild Meanderings on Wheels