93 months ago

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Island Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

In the summer of 1981, at the tender age of 19, I bought my first motorcycle, a brand new pint-sized, single cylinder, two-stroke 1980 Kawasaki KH100EL, which produced 10hp, weighed less than 200 lbs, and had a top speed of about 90 km/h. (with a strong tailwind!) I can vividly recall that day like it was yesterday; I was so proud to be able to pay cash for my shiny new red bike. I think the price tag was approx. $1,000, though I can't be sure... I believe I still have the invoice packed away in a box somewhere. Up until this point, my only experience on a motorcycle was a total of five or six hours of trail riding on our neighbor's ancient dirt bike at their cottage on Belmont Lake in the Kawarthas of Southern Ontario. In those days, no one ever signed up for riders safety courses, (not even sure if there were such a thing at the time) nor were riders overly concerned about safety in general. Sure, helmets were mandatory even back then, but that was about it. You rarely saw a rider with a padded/armoured riding jacket, protective gloves, riding boots, etc. Now, thinking back to when I first started riding that little Kawasaki on the streets of Oshawa, I can only shake my head in wonder. What was I thinking... or more like what wasn't I thinking!

Decked out in my old open-faced snowmobile helmet, t-shirt and runners, with no eye protection and no gloves, (not to mention no training or experience!) away I went. I rode that bike anywhere and everywhere like there was no tomorrow. In hindsight, how I never became a "statistic" is beyond me. I cannot think of a single time that I felt as though I was putting myself in danger... my life on the line. I suppose I just never thought to wonder what would happen if I was to hit another vehicle, or they hit me, or I simply lost control in some sand on the road... because I likely would not have survived, with what little protection I had. The fact that I had not yet reached my 20th birthday might have had something to do with my carefree, laid back attitude. And I don't recall either of my parents raising any concerns about my lack of safety/training/experience, and the fact that I would be glued to that seat for hours at a time, covering not just all of the city of Oshawa, but a good chunk of the neighbouring counties, and even up into the Kawartha Lakes. But amazingly, I never had an accident, and to this day have never dropped a bike.

Fast-forward 33 years. The kids are now grown and gone; the youngest has recently left to attend the RCMP Police Academy in Saskatchewan. We are now officially "empty nesters". The years of financial hardship while raising a family, struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads are now well behind us, and we have financial stability. My wife continues to work; has been employed with the Shorefast Foundation's ultra-exclusive Fogo Island Inn for the past three years, and I am retired; was in fact forced into early retirement 11 years ago after suffering a life-altering fall in the workplace that permanently damaged my upper spine. I have been mostly bedridden since the autumn of 2004. I have some good days thrown in for good measure though, and try to make the very most of these precious times when I am not flat on my back. Call it a mid-life crisis if you wish, but by late summer of 2014 I was starting to toy around with the idea of getting back onto a motorcycle. I was fully aware that I would never be able to tolerate a long ride, and would have to narrow my search down to bikes which offer a natural, upright seating/riding position, and a soft suspension. But if ever there were a perfect spot to take short, relaxed rides in an area of pristine, natural beauty, it would be Fogo Island. Without a doubt, Fogo Island must also be one of the safest places in the world to ride, as there are practically no vehicles to hit, nor to be hit by. No freeways, no traffic lights, no busy intersections... well, you get the picture. I also knew right from the start that I would have to take a riders safety course prior to making any attempt at riding again, with so much time away from riding. (33 years) A refresher course was definitely in order.

By October/2014 I had narrowed down my options to two models; a new 2014 Yamaha V-Star 650 Custom, or a new 2014 Honda CB500FA. Two completely different styles of bike; the V-Star being a cruiser, while the 500F is a sport bike. But both allowed for that much-needed upright riding position, and were within my price range. I ended up getting a better deal with the 500F, so that's the one I chose to buy. As we have no storage space, the dealership agreed to store it for the winter, for free. In April the bike was delivered all the way from the dealership in Clarenville to our home on Fogo Island... free of charge. Two thumbs up to Clarenville Honda for outstanding customer service!

As I had about six months from when I first bought the bike to when it was delivered, I used this time to do some research; learn what is the best safety gear at the best price. I soon started placing orders online for many items to help protect my hide in the event that things might go south; a quality Xelement leather riding jacket, Nexgen riding boots, HJC's CL-17 "Redline" (DOT/SNELL certified) full-face helmet, with PinLock inserts/two replacement visors and chin curtain, and Icon "Pursuit" armoured leather riding gloves. Once I had my safety gear all in order, the real fun began... customizing the bike! Finding ways to make my new Honda look better, feel better, perform better... to make it "my own". I had the dealership install R&G frame sliders; these are designed to protect the bike (limit the damage) in the event of a drop or crash. I also had the dealer exchange the bland stock mirrors for much nicer 2015 CB300FA mirrors. Next, I installed CustomTaylor33 reflective red rim tape. It not only improves the overall look of the bike, but makes it much more visible while riding at night. I was not happy with the stock brake/clutch levers; found them to be too much of a stretch for my small hands, so I installed The2Wheels "7-Click" adjustable (foldable/extendable) ones. Also, as the nerves to my hands/fingers are affected by the damage to my upper spine, I had to eliminate any vibration at the handlebars by slipping "Grip Puppies" foam grips over the existing grips. Not only does this prevent vibrations, it makes for a much more comfortable (softer, larger diameter) grip.

As I am an avid nature/landscape photographer, I needed something to allow me to carry some camera gear, so I opted for a quality Cortech Super 2.0 (24 litre) tail bag. It fits perfectly on the passenger seat and looks like it was made for this bike. It is large enough to accommodate two DSLR bodies and a few lenses, and there's still plenty of room for a snack/beverage, cellphone, etc. Then I thought, well, a motorcycle just isn't "complete" these days without a dashcam, so after much research I bought a SJCAM SJ4000 video camera and a large assortment of mounts/accessories, replacement batteries, etc. And then... well... things just kept coming... A Vizi-Tec SupaBrake II brake light modulator, Oxford front/rear paddock stands, a deluxe Nelson-Rigg motorcycle cover, Erickson tie-down ratchet straps, kickstand foot enlarger, digital thermometer, cable lock, a Battery Tender Junior, quick-disconnect harness, USB phone charger, a Helmet Hooker, and so on...

OK, now it is August of 2015, and I've had a good three months of riding around Fogo Island on my new Honda, and I decided that I wanted to go for my first ever group charity ride, the "Ride For Hope" in Gander, which is to help raise the necessary funds to construct a new medical clinic in a remote region of Tanzania. This is right up my alley, as our family has been heavily involved in charity work in Africa for years. (you can visit my Uganda Journal to follow our work in Western Uganda) It was my first time off the island with my bike, thus my first time on the ferry with it. I had to strap it down securely to the deck, but the trip across the straight was uneventful. The Ride For Hope was great fun indeed; there were upwards of 100 motorcycles participating, and we traveled from Gander to Gambo on the Trans Canada Highway, then rode around the "Gander Loop", which took us to places like North Bonavista Bay, New Wes Valley, Newtown, Greenspond, Carmenville and Musgrave Harbour. The coastal scenery was breathtakingly stunning, and we stopped frequently for breaks, as the sun was very hot. Once we returned to Gander we had a big barbeque banquet and silent auction, and in the end we had raised about $17,000 to go toward construction of the new clinic. A great time was had by all!

Well, Linda has watched me always returning home from a motorcycle ride with a big smile on my face, and has decided she wants in on the action too! She first mentioned to me back in the summer of 2015 that she would like to learn how to ride. I was shocked; I did NOT see that one coming! But of course I am thrilled with the prospect of us being able to ride together. So I proceeded to order Linda a brand-spanking-new Yamaha V-Star Custom (cruiser) for a spring/2016 delivery. Yes, Linda is officially a "biker chick" at age 52! Did you ever think you would see the day where Linda would be riding a big cruiser?? She took the two-day riders safety course in May, and passed her written test a few days later. Just like me, Linda had a greast time ordering safety gear, (black leather Xelement riding jacket, riding boots, armoured gloves, HJC CL-17 "Redline" full face helmet, etc) as well as some bike accessories/modifications. Her bike is stunning, in "liquid silver" and tons of chrome accents. Just beautiful. The first thing we did was install highway bars, (crash bars) and removed the passenger seat; in its place we installed a nice chrome solo luggage rack, which not only changes the overall look of the bike for the better, but it will come in handy for carrying a small tail bag, or anything else that she might have to bring along. I also replaced the stock clutch lever for a much better "Clevver" lever, which brings the lever in closer to the handlebars for easier reach, and also increases the size of the friction zone, making for much smoother gear shifts. In addition, I installed a clutch adjustment kit. So now the bike is perfect. No windshield or saddlebags to clutter up the sleek lines... just a minimalist look which is truly stunning!

More to come...!

2014 Honda CB500FA and 2014 Yamaha V-Star Custom

2014 Honda CB500FA and 2014 Yamaha V-Star Custom

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