Sunday, April 20, 2014

Triumph Visit - A Fantasy...

Last month I wrote about how I hoped to visit Triumph's Hinckley facility when I visit England. As long as I'm fantasizing about it, I may as well fantasize about how it could play out.

Day 1 - Hinckley
I arrive at the Hinckley Triumph building on a cold, drizzly morning, much like Spring days here in Seattle. But the sun is breaking through the clouds. The entrance to the Triumph plant looms ahead, a cultural icon along the lines of Admiral Horatio Nelson's ship the Victory, the Royal Shakespeare Company or Westminster Abbey. Pure British Brilliance. My family watches as I slowly walk towards the entrance, stunned at my good fortune. A stray sunbeam shines down on the door JUST as I reach it.

Stepping inside, I give my name to a polite, cordial receptionist, who looks remarkably like Kate Winslet. She phones the kind person tasked with showing me around the plant. As I wait there in the lobby, Superbike champion Carl Fogarty breezes through the front door, there to consult with the company about some secret corporate development plan. He is used to greeting overwhelmed fans and so interprets my inarticulate grunt of greeting as the "It's an honor to meet one of the world's greatest motorcyclists. So exciting to see you here!" and responds as if I had actually uttered something polysyllabic.

A little while later, I am escorted inside and have the once in a lifetime experience of seeing a location where THE best motorcycles in the world are built and to hear some super secret plans for improving their 1050 cc engine. How do you improve the best motorcycle engine ever designed? Do your worst, use any torture, from the rack to Justin Bieber music....I'll die before I tell.

My visit to the plant is nearly over and we are making our way back towards the lobby, when suddenly an irate Foggy comes storming down the hall, muttering curses to himself. "Bloody Hell," he exclaims, cursing the brilliant but ill-timed good fortune of a member of his team of riders, who eloped with the REAL Kate Winslet just before a planned raid into Germany. He continues his cursing and suddenly sees me being escorted out.

"Oi! Mumbling American guy! I'm short one man. Can you ride? Can you actually maintain balance on two wheels without falling off or riding into a wall? WHAT ARE YOU MADE OF?" I mumble assent and am swept along with his plan as a spare rider, Foggy's desperation becoming my big opportunity. It's off to Germany in the morning.

Day 2 - The Nürburgring
Early morning sun shines down on a Nürburgring that is relatively dry, yet still cold. A local Trabant enthusiast's club has just finished a couple leisurely, breakdown-filled laps around the track. They pull off to top off the oil they have been leaking on the track, smoking ill-smelling f6 cigarettes. Six of BMW's official test riders, clad in lederhosen and just having consumed a breakfast of sauerkraut and Bavarian beer, mount their Gelände/Straße motorcycles and begin making their sturdy, agricultural way around the track.

The rearmost rider has just settled into his groove for a couple comfortably complacent laps around the track, when he realizes that there is strange sound growing in the distance. It is an unsettling sound, one which nearly unmans him and sets his hair standing on end. It grows louder, this howling, manic sound like Bruce Lee howling out his aggression as he leaps into the air to kick 3 people before touching down to Earth again. It is the sound of pure, focused aggression and it is coming relentlessly his way.

And then, looking back over his shoulder, he sees the first Speed Triples rapidly getting closer, like a pack of wolves running down their prey or a squadron of Spitfires hunting for Messerschmitts.

The BMW riders struggle to maintain composure as they are, one after the other, brutally passed and left in the dust. The final Triumph rider seems a little slower but as his helmet radio rings with Foggy's curses and then "Hey, mumbling guy! Give it some welly and the first round is on me tonight," he brazenly twists the throttle and leaves the BMWs foundering and dispirited in his wake.

Later, sitting at the Ace Cafe with my new mates, I sip a beer and we swap stories about how we shattered the confidence of BMW with one brutal raid. I try to look like this:

Even if I look more like this:

But meditating on the fact that I have barely managed to add my name to the Triumph legacy, I smile and say to myself, "We few, we happy few..."

"...we band of brothers," finishes Foggy and we raise our glasses together in salute of a deed well done.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hoping to visit the Hinckley Triumph plant in 2014!

My family and I will be visiting the UK in Spring 2014 and hope that we can visit the Triumph plant during that visit. Let me explain why...

I first rode motorcycles for 5 years (1988-1993) when I lived in Northern California and it was one of the greatest periods of my life. At that point, the motorcycles that I rode were used or new Japanese motorcycles, Triumph having waned to a very limited production status. Ironically, given my current love for their products, I got out of riding due to incipient fatherhood just as Triumph was about to start their brilliant comeback under the able leadership of John Bloor.

Flashing forward to 2007, I had been longing for a return to motorcycling for quite a while and a longish (30 mile) commute provided a convenient pretext for a return to riding. When I started researching the field, the changes to motorcycles were quite startling, with bikes having vastly improved their capabilities and handling during my riding hiatus. Since my last bike (a Katana 750) had incurred silly plastic replacements costs the times that I dropped it, I was immediately drawn to the current crop of naked bikes. I had planned to choose between a Yamaha FZ1 and a BMW K1200R when a friend recommended looking at Triumph's Speed Triple. It caused me to give its reviews another look and to take a test ride on one.

I ended up purchasing that very Speed Triple on the day of the test ride. From what I hear that is a common phenomenon.

That was my first  Hinckley Triumph. I have now had a total of 3 of their bikes, 2 Speed Triples and a Tiger 800 XC.


(Photos: the Northern Exposure TV show mural in Roslyn, WA. Near Duffey Lake North of Whistler, BC)

As you can see in the pictures above, I took that first Speed Triple to a lot of places, putting about 18,000 miles on her in the 2 1/2 years that I had her. What I enjoyed most was riding up into British Columbia and exploring and, unfortunately, she met her end there when a crumbly cliff wall dropped rocks on us during a rainstorm. This is my blog post about that day.

While the loss of that Speed Triple gutted me, by that time I was completely enamored of Triumph's motorcycles. I'm not somebody who has ever been interested in following a brand just because the cool kids do: for a major purchase like a vehicle I demand high quality construction for the money and robustness. What amazes me about Triumph motorcycles is that they deliver quality and reliability aplenty, yet I always arrive on my Triumph with a wicked grin across my face: Triumphs also deliver extreme FUN with a combination of performance and playfulness that I still find astonishing, seven years on.

 I purchased another Speed Triple the year after the first was lost and have taken it on further trips into BC and the Canadian Rockies. The picture below is that second Speed Triple by the Crowfoot Glacier near Alberta's Icefields Parkway. Here is a blog post about that day.

Aside from enjoying top quality bikes with a bit of the hooligan about them, I have also been thinking about doing more offroading and bike camping. I had a DRZ400 for a while and, while it was a blast around town and on backroads, it was not any fun at highway speeds. When the Tiger 800 became available here in the Seattle area I quickly took one for a test ride (blogged) and eventually bought my own. The picture below was taken with my Tiger at the Continental Divide in BC's Kootenay National Park (blogged).

At this point, I know that I have my personal best combination of motorcycles in the world and expect many years of pleasure from riding them into adventures.

This Spring, we will be visiting England and Wales. The sites that we will be visiting are a nerdy combination of cultural (e.g., seeing Henry IV Part 1 in Stratford-on-Avon), historical (Bletchley Park, the Tower of London) and bitterly partisan in nature (looking for scooter riders to taunt in Brighton). Triumph is presently not conducting tours of their factory but it would add to our experience tremendously if they considered opening their facility up for visits this year. Or perhaps giving one of their enthusiasts here in the USA the privilege of a short visit that can be raved about on this blog.

How about it, Triumph?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Part VI: The Home Stretch

Having accomplished all of the things that I wanted to accomplish on this trip, I found myself limping into Nelson utterly exhausted. Fortunately, the North Shore Inn had a room available and so I had a relaxing last night in Canada.

The next morning, I made a point of looking up the old firehouse used in the Steve Martin movie Roxanne. These were the last pictures that I took during this, my best trip into western Canada yet. The next day was a LONG riding day and it was great to be back home.

Part V: Starting Back Home

All good things must come to an end and so, on the 4th day of my trip, I had to leave the Banff area and start heading home. Ironically, this was the point where I experienced the first real (if mild) rain of this trip.

The rainy weather drastically changed the light in the park, including the addition of this rainbow, albeit not a double rainbow.

I stopped in Yoho National Park again on the way back. As I said, this park has attracted me tremendously for years.

Heading back, I stopped in Emerald Lake for some pictures. They don't do the lake justice, it really is the most amazing shade of green!

I Also stopped at the Natural Bridge, an attraction I hadn't visited previously.

It really is quite impressive how the Kicking Horse River has carved its way through these rocks!

Pressing onward, the rain continued to fall and I decided to stop for a break at Rogers Pass
Rogers Pass. After having an energy bar and some caffeine to boost my energy level, I noticed a couple other motorcyclists waiting out the weather. Going up to say hello,I discovered that they were a married couple from Saskatoon who were riding through the Rockies on a pair of Triumphs.

Eventually, I reached Revelstoke and from there my path again took me in a new direction, albeit one I had hoped to travel a few years earlier. Upon reaching Revelstoke, rather than simply continuing West on  Trans-Canada Highway 1, I headed south on 23 towards Nakusp.

The juvenile part of me wants to call this photo "The Grand Tetons of Revelstoke"

23 has a gap near Upper Arrow Lake, where you need to take a ferry from Shelter Bay Provincial Park to Galena Bay. It's not a long crossing, maybe 30-45 minutes and it provided more different lake scenery. And my first ride on a ferry with a motorcycle!

Continuing South on Highway 6, you eventually reach Nakusp, site of the annual Western Canada meeting of Horizons Unlimited, an amazing motorcycle travel site. There are some excellent hit springs here that I hope to visit during a HU meeting, some day.

Past Nakusp, the next largish town is New Denver. There are several historical attractions in the area but one of the best known is a museum honoring Japanese immigrants who were interred in the area during World War 2. The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre preserves the stories of these families, including exhibits showing what life was like in the camp.

The camp itself was a sobering reminder of the past (a past shared with the US and other allied countries). But I found these photos of a huge building full of cots and the confiscated boats and bicycles of internees to be especially effective reminded of the scale of this event.

Heading South from New Denver towards Slocan and Castlegar, there is some amazing coastline along Slocan Lake.

However...I've got some unfortunate history with some of this coastline. In 2009, I was making the reverse ride up from Nelson/Castlegar up towards New Denver my bike was totaled by falling rocks along this cliff pictured below. One of my goals on this trip was to to revisit the site of that incident and capture my own pictures of the cliff. I was glad to able to do that.

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