2011-10-04 21:14:13+0000

First time riding with another 8GS owner. First time really trying my new, absurdly expensive (505 Torontonian dollars installed and balanced) Tourance tires in a tasty mess of offroad conditions in the swampy lowland jungles of Ontario around Sterling and Marmora. My estimations for these tires were middling: If they were slightly better than Battlewings in the unpaved, gravel worlds I occasionally explore, I'd be satisfied. In the final analysis, I was shocked.

Paul and I met at the Newcastle/401 exit and he led. We started out on easy snowmobile trails, stuff your mother could ride on a Harley. After burgers at Sterling, he and his Heidenau K60-equipped yellowjacket, which far out-farkles my own mount, led me down garden paths into plenty of healthy roughage.

Foot-deep beaver-dammed water crossings that went for hundreds of meters, crunchy new fist-sized gravel, a short, steep climb up dirt and boulder, and lots of stand-up 60-80km/hr puddle-studded trail.

Most of my motorcycle hours prior to owning this bike have been on dirt. I cut my teeth on a friend's Yammy 500 thumper in the late 70s on a 57-acre bit of farm outside of Sylvan Lake, Alberta. In the late 80s, early 90s I did months of hard labour at the Thai stoner island of Koh Phangan on rented Honda MTX 125s, the highly capable water-cooled 2-stroke dualsports one needed to travel the road to Tong Nai Pan Bay. This was the most dangerous and unmaintained road it's possible to call a road (I've driven through the jungles of the Philippines, Indonesia and Laos, but Phangan's worst could be far more terrifying than the even notorious Kasi-Louang Prabang route in Laos, circa '89... including the Hmong rebel anti-Communist snipers shooting at me -- oh, like I'm a Communist). Even Phangan's local Willys jeep taxi used to get horribly stuck almost every day on this accursed ribbon of erosion and slop. During rainy season some sections had but a ridge of six inches of passability remaining, a two-inch topping of bacon-grease-like clay on top, and deep, rutted gullies tangled with roots and sharp boulders down both sides -- 50-60 -foot-long Hail Marys that if you didn't make were going to hurt you a lot, and believe me, I did much lying down and hurting on that road (in runners, shorts, a wifebeater, no helmet -- ya man, I was very high).

I only mention all this because my 800 can be an intimidating wench to me in comparison to toys of old. But my bike and its Tourances, they utterly rose to occasion again and again. Neither bike nor rubber so much as hinted at inability in anything encountered. 'When in doubt, throttle it out,' was my ethos. And I was neither let down nor put down.

So I salute the Tourance as a sleeper.

Oh, and Paul assembled this modest showpiece...


P.S. Salutes also to Budds' BMW for undoing all the corruption inflicted on my bike by a certain other dealer which really ought to be ashamed of itself. I cannot recommend Budds' enough, and its Wrenchmeister General, John Parker. He is a master, and a top man as well. I shall return, despite the lost half day required to do business there.

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