Thursday, September 7, 2017

Yamaha's Announcement


As everyone that follows my blog knows, I'm a big fan of Yamaha motorcycles.  I started my riding life with a Yamaha XT250 in the early 80's and since then Yamaha has been in my heart.  My second choice would be Suzuki and then Kawasaki.  I have never been a fan of any other motorcycles.  Yes, there are lots of motorcycles out there that are beautiful and powerful that I wouldn't mind having but I tend to gravitate to equivalent Japanese motorcycles.  Before I bought the Yamaha Super Tenere, my motorcycle of choice to ride to Alaska was the 650cc Suzuki V-Strom which would have been ideal for my size.  Yamaha had made the Super Tenere available in other countries almost a year before they announced it for the USA and I had been reading about it.   The Tenere looked really good and had a great sounding unique 270° crank 1200cc engine but I also knew it was going to be a big motorcycle at 575lbs.  Yamaha was following the success of the BMW GS with the big engine and the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman adventure series success.  Had Yamaha brought the smaller 660cc Tenere to the USA I would have bought it instead.


When they announced the Super Tenere for the USA I ran to the dealer and put a deposit down.  I'm extremely happy with my Super Tenere but I like to adventure off-road and a lighter version of the Tenere would have been better for me.


Last year at the EICMA show Yamaha previewed the Yamaha T7 Tenere Concept and the media went crazy.  It looked like Yamaha had finally woken up to the smaller and lighter middleweight adventure concept and was getting ready to announce a smaller Tenere to replace the very old and outdated 660 but now with a slightly bigger parallel-twin engine most likely taken from the very popular FZ-07.  The concept was developed in conjunction with its official rayy team in France and European headquarters and featured an 18-inch rear and 21-inch front tire.  The T7 concept is a beauty.



Like most people, I have been hoping for a 660 Tenere replacement for some time so you can imagine my excitement when a few weeks ago Yamaha alerted us to expect a big announcement on September 6th.  There had been talk in the media about the announcement being about the smaller Tenere and the excitement had been growing among fans.  The 6th came and I was ready, refreshed the webpage at exactly 10.30am EDT and to my surprise the announcement was for the new "Star Eluder".  What does it even mean?
"Eludes" evade or escape from (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skillful or cunning way


To say I was disappointed is an understatement.  The new "Eluder" is a bagger to complement the previously announced "Star Venture".  I guess Yamaha needed a motorcycle to compete with the Harley-Davidson Street Glide, Indian Chieftain, BMW K 1600 B and the Honda F6B Goldwing.


The "Star Eluder" is a beautiful bagger and has a modern air-cooled 113 cubic inch (1854cc) V-twin fuel-injected engine.  The Venture and the Eluder are mechanically identical and feature “Drive Mode” settings that adjust throttle response, traction control, a heated seat for the rider and passenger and a fully-featured infotainment system.  They are belt-driven touring bikes but unlike the much lighter T7, the Venture weighs 957lbs and the Eluder 875lbs.  To keep up with the 7-inch infotainment system with Bluetooth and all the other electronic gizmos like navigation, SiriusXM, CB radio, security alarm, heated seats as well as all the lighting, they have paired alternators mounted low and forward in the engine cases providing a total of 750 watts, enough for the bike and rider's accessories like heated apparel.
The Venture is shown below.


Now I await the next announcement which I hope will be for the smaller Tenere.  The talk is that the new bike won't release before late next year in any case, which will be too late even if I wanted to entertain thoughts of buying one for my next trip.  Maybe one day when I'm done adventuring off-road and decide to cruise down the highways and paved twisties I will consider a motorcycle like the Eluder, specially if I can convince my wife to ride pillion, but for now my beloved Super Tenere will continue to ride on for the foreseeable future.

Below is the video announcing the Star Eluder for your enjoyment.



Thursday, August 31, 2017

New Website "Where's George"

As Labor day is fast approaching and the end of another summer is upon us, it's finally time for me to announce my new website and new plans.  I have been dreaming of a new adventure for a very long time, actually since I returned from Alaska my mind has not been the same, constantly trying to figure out how I could do a much longer trip and still maintain the family happy.  It hasn't been easy but I'm finally approaching the end of this long road.


I started thinking about designing a new website because of the limitations of blogger and also because of the name I am using for my current blog.  I already mentioned in a previous post that "Riding The USA" implies riding inside the US but this new trip was going to be over many countries.  First I started researching names and testing to see if the domain was available and of course checking Facebook and Instagram for similar names. After I had a name picked I registered the domain, the Facebook page and the Instagram name.  Soon after I registered another domain and ended up with two domains registered with their respective Facebook and Instagram pages.  I started getting followers on both pages on Facebook even though I hadn't announced either page.  I then had a dilemma, I liked both names and setup both sites identically including making the same posts on both with the same dates. After enlisting my family and a few close friends for their opinion, almost unanimously the first name I had picked was the one people liked the most.  With the name settled it is now time to announce it.


The first new website was setup over two years ago and the first post to test the design was done on May 14th, 2015.  The second post was done on September 28th of the same year.  Since then I have been tweaking the design, adding a few galleries to test plugins, added links to social media pages and most importantly adding a count down timer to keep me sane.  The day I added the timer and put in a preliminary departure date, the number that first appeared was slightly over 700 days.  Since then I have watched it slowly tick down the seconds, minutes and hours until it dropped below 700, then 600, 500, 400 and finally 300 days.   The counter stands as of today at 273 days to go.  Watching the counter is worse than watching grass grow as the saying goes but even worse is looking at the travel fund and not seeing it grow as much as I was expecting.


I still have a lot to do and plan before I leave but barring a major catastrophe or health issue the departure date will be sometime in June 2018.   For an idea of what my plan is, click on the "About" page and at the bottom you will see the "Dream".  Follow up post on this site and on the new website will describe my plan in more detail.  I will make posts about everything as the date approaches, from bike preparation, equipment I will use and route planning.
I chose this template for the website because I want the last five post's "featured" photo to scroll in slideshow fashion at the top.  Currently only two are sliding because there's only two posts on the site.
Please feel free to comment on anything you see wrong or you think I should address.   Your opinion is very much appreciated.  Now, without further ado:



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Journey

Every "adventure" starts with a plan and with enough patience everything is possible if you work on it.  I keep reminding myself everyday to stay on track and to carry the plan to execution.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cameras

As I start planning for my new trip I have to look back at my last big trip and re-examine everything I did.  My trip to Alaska in 2012 was only 34 days, this new trip will last much longer and involve much more diverse terrain.
Getting weather predictions for a 34 day ride to Alaska in the summer is pretty easy.  There was only one country border to cross, even though I crossed the Canadian border a few times, and it is pretty easy for American citizens.  On my new trip I will be crossing lots of borders with various degrees of difficulties and requirements.


As I keep reflecting back on my trip, one of the issues that keeps popping up is how much I carried and what I will need to carry this time.  The selection of what to include as part of my kit is made more difficult due to the changes in weather, altitude, terrain and the duration of the trip.  The "how to" pack everything on a motorcycle also complicates things, as everyone knows, space on a motorcycle is limited. Another major issue is the carrying capacity of the motorcycle while at the same time keeping in mind that weight is a killer when adventuring off road.  Below is my Yamaha Super Tenere when I rode to Alaska.


I definitely do not want to be like the riders below.



As the start date counts down I will be making a series of post discussing my preparation and the various pieces of equipment I will be taking.  On this post I will be talking about cameras and supporting equipment.

During my Alaska trip I carried a Canon T3i 35mm DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) with two lens for the camera and a small Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99 point and shoot camera in my tank bag.  Sometimes I would hang the small camera around my neck and inside my jacket so I could pull it out fast and photograph something even while riding like the photos below.  I know, it's not safe but I only do it when I'm alone on the road.  I did manage to break the Sony's back screen and even though I could still use it, I discarded the camera after the trip.





For high-quality photos, there’s no substitute for a DSLR camera. The biggest problem with DSLR's is they are susceptible to being damaged due to vibration and dust specially while changing the lens, and the bulky size makes them difficult to store on the bike. I have been spending a lot of time researching cameras to find out what would be the best compromise between quality and weight.

I'm a photographer and for my photography business I use two Canon 7D's, a full frame Canon 6D and my trusty Canon T3i that I took to Alaska.  For last year's trip to Alaska with my wife in an RV I bought a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS because of the 65x telephoto lens which is equivalent to 21-1365mm SLR lens.


The SX60 is a great camera when you need to take photos from very far as the photos below show.  The sequence of photos below were taken from the top of a mountain in the Alyeska ski resort in Girdwood, Alaska.  I believe on the last photo I actually used 2x digital zoom combined with the 65x telephoto zoom.



Having a great zoom range is not very important when you want to take photos of landscapes as it compacts the image, in fact a wide angle lens is much more useful to expand the surrounding landscape.  The long telephoto lens only comes in handy when you have wildlife to photograph or you can't get near a location but you still want a closeup.  A long telephoto lens is also useful when you want to take candid photos of people without them knowing.

You might be asking yourself now, why am I mentioning all these specs? and that's because I wish one camera could do everything, unfortunately that's never the case, there's always compromises.  The 7D is a very rugged camera used by professional photographers and I'm sure it would be able to withstand the trip and the harsh conditions but it weighs 860 g (1.90 lb) without a lens.

Below is the weight of the Canon cameras I own:
EOS 7D 860 g (1.90 lb) Body only
EOS 6D 770 g (1.70 lb) Body only
XS60 650 g (1.43 lb) with 65x lens
T3i 570 g (1.26 lb) Body only

These are two new Canon cameras I'm considering:
SL2 453 g (1.00 lb) Body only
M6 343 g (0.76 lb) Body only

Since weight is very important as mentioned at the top, I'm now considering two new cameras.  The SL2 is probably the smallest and lightest Canon SLR on the market and the M6 is one of the lightest mirrorless cameras.  The SL2 is almost half the weight of the 7D and the M6 is even lighter.  All these cameras accept the EF-S lens format except for the 6D and the XS60.  Since I own quite a few EF-S lens I will stay with Canon, if I were to buy from a different manufacturer it would entail buying all new lens.  So it all comes down to weight and lenses.  I'm leaning into buying the M6 and pairing it with my 10-22mm lens, a great wide-angle lens allowing me to capture landscapes like the ones below.





I am considering taking the XS60 for the amazing 65x zoom but it's heavy and bulky, would probably take too much space in my tank bag and definitely could not be hung around my neck.  It's also not waterproof but I envision needing a camera for when it's raining or for the occasional dip in the ocean. I might take one of my telephoto lens for whatever camera I end up buying but that means swapping lens, not the ideal when you need to get something fast and certainly not good when in dusty conditions.  The ideal would be a small waterproof camera with a very good telephoto to complement the DSLR I will end up taking but I don't think that camera has been invented.

Camera equipment can be very expensive and the more you carry the greater the risk of damage and theft, however with a little bit of planning these challenges can be overcome.  A DSLR will reward you with stunning photos, much better than anything a point and shoot camera can capture.  Hopefully I will find a solution to these issues because one of my main objectives on this trip is to carry as little and be as light as possible but still be able to capture the stunning scenery I plan to ride.

More to follow as I continue to research.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step


2016 was not a good year for me as far as motorcycle riding and 2017 is not looking good either.  I didn't do any long rides and I think I only ventured outside of New Jersey on my motorcycle a couple of times last year. It seems every year I hope the following year will be good for long distance motorcycle adventures but life has other ideas.  The lack of vacation time, work schedule, lack of money or family issues always conspire to change my plans.  I made one post at the beginning of 2016 and that was it for my blog. I started 2016 with great expectation but the year quickly turned into a bad year when my mom go very sick.

My beautiful mom in good health a few years ago and with me on Mother's Day 2016, just months before she found out she was sick.

   

In June 2016 I went to Portugal with my dad to take care of a few important things and returned on July 4th, Independence Day landing in Newark at 3.30pm, unfortunately I was one hour too late, my mom had passed away at 2.30pm, at home with my wife and my brother at her side.  I knew she was very sick when we left but never expected to turn so bad so quickly, it was a shock which I'm still recovering from.  I have always been very closed when it comes to showing my feelings, I keep them bottled up to myself but it does have a detrimental effect on my life and I'm sure it affects the way I interact with family and friends.  It has now been a little over a year, my mom is now resting in peace in Portugal with her sister and mom.


It has been a long sad road but life goes on, I'm still here, in good health, working and planning future motorcycle trips.  I have been planning for a major trip for over a year all the while trying to save as much money as possible.  I rarely go out on the motorcycle with friends because after adding up gas and food I always end up spending thirty to fifty bucks on a weekend and that will equal a day or two on the road of my future adventure.  Unlike a lot of adventurers that sell everything before embarking on long distance trips, I have to think about my family and a way to keep my home life going.  Property taxes are not cheap in New Jersey, for every month I plan on spending on the road I will have to keep aside almost $1000 for my property taxes.  Then there's the other expenses, water, electricity, gas and insurance to name a few and someone will have to take care of the lawn and the pool.  There's also college expenses from my son and for my daughter which will be a junior in college this year.  I'm driving an old SUV in order to save money and it will have to do until at least next year.  My wife is driving a nine year old car and I'm glad she can wait until later for a new car.  I would love to buy another motorcycle, maybe a Yamaha R1, the motorcycle I have always dreamed of, but that will just have to wait, life in NJ is expensive.


Too may obstacles along the way, I could just give up on my plans and settle for a mediocre life but that has never been me. I enjoy a good challenge and taking careful and planned risks to overcome any obstacle.  The calculator in my brain has been running into overdrive lately trying to put everything in place but I believe where there's a will there will be a way.  I have always loved this quote:

"There's nothing like a dream to create a future - Victor Hugo"
Why can't I do what I really, really want to do? Why settle when I can challenge myself to an amazing adventure and live an extraordinary life?

That first step has been taken and plans are underway for a much longer trip outside of the USA. I will continue this blog for my USA trips but I have created a new blog since it will no longer be about Riding The USA only. New Facebook page and Instagram account have been created. The countdown counter on the new blog started with almost 500 days to go but is already showing less than 365 days to go.

Soon I will announce my plans and my new blog.  I will put a link on this blog to the new blog and I hope you will follow me there. I thank you for your support and patience, I promise it will be worthwhile.

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step - Lao Tzu"


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