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In my world, all days are good days. But, some days are better than others. Occasionally however, things get turned on their head --or in my case, its side-- and no matter what I do shit goes from bad to worse.
A couple weeks ago I headed out on my first review ride for ESR with Alex. For those who don’t know, Alex Crookes is the co-founder of EatSleepRIDE --which in other words makes him my boss-- and a pretty solid two-wheelin’ boffin. He’s probably got riding gear older than my motorcycle licence and even raced in the Canadian CBR250 series this summer. While I’m rattling off, I may as well mention that he also instructs at the Rider Training Institute. None of this does anything to make me feel better about what little riding experience I have.
Maybe this was working on my mind as we met up the morning of the ride. Maybe I was already agitated before we even met up having had to turn back around and go home because I forgot some filming gear and then having a delivery truck block my bike for what felt like an eternity in the parking lot.
Since Alex would be the face on camera for our first proper review, it only made sense that he rides the press bike. Plus I had already spent almost a week messing around on it and it was his first time even seeing it. So we swapped bikes, him riding the Yamaha Super Ténéré and me on his Triumph Tiger Explorer. Was I nervous to be riding his personal bike? Damn right I was. I had never ridden someone else’s bike in their presence, plus this one was a brand new bike he had only bought a few months earlier.
The Triumph Tiger Explorer the day it was picked up from the dealership new, just a few months ago:
Before setting off, we pulled in to a fuel station a couple hundred feet from our meeting spot. A fuel station like any other, but to me this location will forever be known as the first instance of my most embarrassing motorcycling memory. I dropped the bike! Well, I did and I didn’t.
Just before setting off after topping our tanks up, my attempt at adjusting the left mirror had resulted in the inadvertent loosening of the bolt fastening said apparatus. Alex carried some tools under his seat and requested that I hop off the bike and get them. As I began the “hopping off” I realized --a little too late might I add-- that I had forgotten to put the kick stand down. So down the bike went. Luckily Alex was already standing by the bike helping with the mirror so as soon as he realized what was happening he was able to jump in and help keep the top-heavy, 570lbs machine from smacking concrete.
A few minutes and many shot nerves later we set off on our route. After a short jaunt on the highway, we had arrived at the start of a route I had not ridden before. We were out on the western side of Milton in what could be best described as a semi-rural locale. During the quick stop to stretch before the ‘proper’ ride, we met some locals who were interested in our bikes. Turned out that we not only had common interests, but also shared a common friend; small world after all.
As we briskly accelerated our machines out of the popular summer biker hangout we had stopped at, I was feeling tepid about wringing out a new bike --someone else’s new bike-- on an unfamiliar road. To my sheer surprise we hit some gravel patches early on and I was even more cautious of my riding.
Despite being on adventure touring bikes, it took some quiet mental convincing for me to accept that it was okay to ride on this somewhat loose surface. It’s worth noting that most of the time I’m on cruises and sportbikes, riding on gravel --patches or otherwise-- is something I usually avoid at all costs.
Turns out Alex’s route had us ascending and descending a portion of the Niagara escarpment on windy country roads. It was a sheer blast to take in the road as it snaked out in front of us flanked by leaves changing colour. Riding in autumn should be a must for any biker; it’s such a beautiful time of year.
Despite it being a balmy 4-degrees Celsius out, I was barely noticing it thanks to the heated grips Alex had opted to have installed on the Tiger Explorer. Having ridden with heated grips for the first time, I must admit that having it alone would easily extend any rider’s season far past the usual go-to-storage point. His bike has also been wired for a heated jacket, which made no difference to me seeing as I don’t own one.
About two hours in to our ride, it was time to get camera’d up and start shooting some b-roll for the Super Ténéré video review. We had pulled on to a bit of dirt on the side of the road and quickly got a GoPro going and were ready to do our first b-roll loop. My bad luck decided to rear its ugly head at this moment and before I knew what was happening I was sitting on a bike that was going down for the second time that day. This time however, I wasn’t so fortunate to have someone standing beside the bike, Alex was sitting on the Super Ténéré ready to take off; so down the bike went till it smacked in to the dirt.
My first reaction was pure unfiltered cursing under my breath as I watched my helmet face shield fog up rapidly. It was then that I realized that I was still trying to hold the fallen bike up, so letting go, I tried to step away only to realize that my right foot was trapped underneath.
Pull, pull, twist, pull, yank with hand, pull some more. Nope, my foot was properly stuck under the bike. The 15 seconds or so it took Alex to shut his bike off, dismount and walk over to help felt like an eternity. So much time in fact that my mind had explored the possibility of him being so cross at me for dropping his bike --twice-- that I was about to lose my job, how I would need surgery on my leg, and more importantly, what would happen if this means that I can’t ride anymore this season.
Once we got my leg out and the bike upright once again, turns out all my concerns were unwarranted. Alex was surely disappointed that his new bike was now sporting some scuffs on the engine guard, handlebar covers and had a broken turn signal, but he handled it well and stayed calm. My foot was miraculously unscathed; although I won’t endorse riding in Timberland boots --it’s stupid to think they work as well as purpose built riding gear-- my foot in it was no worse for wear.
Our ride wrapped up at a fuel station in south Mississauga after some scenery and a favourite route in Hamilton which includes the escarpment which offers spectacular views of the city, the waterfront, and Toronto beyond it.
Immediately after getting back on the Super Ténéré and setting off toward Toronto, the lack of heated grips hit me like a brick wall. As my luck would have it, there was colossal traffic on my route which meant my ride would take incredibly long. Under normal conditions I loathe traffic, but with freezing fingers that were losing all sensation in them, I was a seriously unhappy rider that evening. Thankfully I reached my destination without further incident, although it took me over 90 minutes.
As I warmed up after getting indoors I kept reflecting back on the lowest points of my day: starting my day off late, pissing anger at a truck driver blocking my bike, sheer embarrassment for dropping a bike at a fuel station, sheer regret for doing it again --albeit on the other side-- and damaging it, and then putting myself in a riding situation where I was under extreme discomfort by riding in the cold with bad gear.
On the upside though, I had ridden a beautiful new route I had never ridden before, gotten a chance to pick up some great riding tips from a master rider and --despite the string of bad luck-- had managed to bring myself and the bike back in one piece.
In the relatively short period of time I’ve been riding, I’ve covered many thousands of miles, and these two hundred or so are undoubtedly make up the best worst ride I’ve ever had.
Check our review of the new Super Ténéré here: