Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
You Can't Tour On That! A 4000KM Ontario Trip On A 2011 CBR150R
Part I - Starting Out Along the North Shore
You can't tour on that. The message seemed clear enough. Yet - I still felt like asking: "You don't have to beat around the bush - give it to me straight - what is it that you're really trying to say here?!?" I've heard this so many times from so many people. Most of them actually rode vehicles of the two-wheeled variety too. They were a convincing lot. And they almost had me believing them. This all began after I purchased my 2009 CBR125R in 2010, and just before I rode it from Thunder Bay, ON to Winnipeg, MB - and back (a total of 1600kms in 3 days) on a camping trip a few months later - to see if I could answer that question myself. To determine if this assertion was indeed true. Kinda like Descartes' epiphany - to question everything - to accept nothing as true unless it could be unequivocally demonstrated to be so. I wanted and needed to find out. Would I be able to quip: "I rode - therefore I can."
I suppose yet another reason for the trip was to prove that the CBR125R could actually do it. By the time I set out on my first trip - I had already kindled an emotional bond with the bike - with it surprising me in many ways - coming through when I needed it most - to the point where I was ready to fight to defend the honour of this supposedly inferior mechanical specimen. A final question I also had to ask was whether "I" could do it. Did I have the physical endurance and mental stamina to ride a small bike farther than the few kilometers to the nearest local Tim Horton's that all the big bike riders boasted of being able to do? And then there were the derogatory comments. I had to fend off frequent, and at times - heated criticism for purchasing a "beginner's bike" - a "toy bike" as it was referred to. Did the dealer fiendishly affix the Honda label over the one that read Fisher-Price on the fuel tank? One local motorcycle dealer even made a friendly bet with me that I'd be in his shop within two weeks of riding to purchase a 650cc "upgrade". He swore that I would change my tune once I rode a "real" motorcycle. By real motorcycle, I figured he was referring to one that cost ungodly amounts of money, was heavier than a Smart car, cornered like Wile E. Coyote perched on top of an ACME rocket, netted poorer fuel economy than my Honda Civic, and required me to take out a second mortgage to pay for insurance and maintenance. Yet - he was the expert. Maybe he was right? Granted - I conceded that buying a bike didn't necessarily have to be strictly a rational thing - and accepted that it could be driven more by desire and emotion. Then I was also fed the bizarre insidious belief that the bike would be exceedingly dangerous and "unsafe" as it wouldn't have enough power to "accelerate rapidly at highway speeds to....[wait for it].....avoid danger". Did brakes not come standard on these large bikes? Ironically, all the data I had read from the U.S. National Traffic Highway and Safety Administration suggested that the danger and risk of motorcycle riding lied primarily in purchasing large displacement bikes (over 500cc) even accounting for the number of bikes sold. And the most common risk factor involved in fatal motorcycle accidents was "speeding". Not wearing a helmet and alcohol consumption were also mentioned.
While I assumed much of the banter I'd experienced was largely playful in nature - I was wondering how people might react to finding out that the CBR125 could hold its own in a touring and camping environment. Since that time I've reported on four trips I've taken on small displacement bikes. Here they are:
Below is my newish 2011 CBR150R decked out for touring. It's sitting outside of my girlfriend's place - eager to go - after I washed it, checked the tire pressures, changed the oil, and inspected, cleaned and lubed the chain. I love my girlfriend deeply for many reasons. The fact that she has a huge virtually unused garage sitting at the end of her driveway where she insists I store and work on my bikes - simply adds immeasurably to her charms.
So where am I now? Well - in a shocking turn of events - the motorcycle dealer and I are now like "BFF's". After riding my CBR125R to Toronto and back later that year - I entered his shop and was treated like I had been recently awarded the Victoria Cross for valour in the face of fighting an enemy disguised as a small-displacement bike - for 3200kms. We may have even bumped fists and he may have even muttered "respect". Not sure though - I was so stunned at the time thinking that I was suddenly being ushered - accepted - into the local freemason-like exclusive motorcycle fraternity - that the rest was a blur - a combination of strong elation and severe confused dissociation. I'm also still in traction at our local hospital and popping Oxy's from a Batman themed Pez dispenser for the damage to my lower back that riding a slow bike over long distances for 3 years - tucked in most of the time - has created. They were right all along. Who knew?!? (Teasing - no really - don't PM me - I'm not in the hospital). My camping and touring setup has also evolved over this time and I've since purchased an assortment of new gear - replacing older stuff that ultimately either didn't work, was bumped by something that did a better job, was lighter in weight, took up less space, cost a crap load of money which through cognitive-dissonance led me to believe that it must be better, or all of the above.
So here it is. My fifth report. I decided to head out on June 19th, 2013, for a 4000KM , 10-day trip across Northern and Southern Ontario aboard my 2011 CBR150R. Like my previous excursions, I had a few goals in mind. I'd traveled along the north shore of Lake Superior numerous times and wanted to snap some photos and capture some places that I hadn't visited previously. And as I age - I find myself thinking about my youth and the fun I had growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario and I've been yearning to travel back there. Have you ever had the urge to explore some places that you last visited as a teenager? You know - those special places where you and your friends used to hang out - where every day seemed to be sunny, and staying in the house and watching T.V. was about as appealing as being water-boarded? When I look back on these places now, they continue to hold a special significance for me. But surprisingly - I remember how they held a special significance for me back then too. I'm thankful that I had at least one limbic neuron fire like a iridium plug - at just the right time - at a much younger age - that helped me consolidate and appreciate the present - the here and now. How long had it been since you returned to where you grew up - re-visited these places - and re-ignited the fires of youth? It was time for me to go back. And there was yet another goal. It involved a boat-launch site on a lake near where I grew up. To the other side of the inlet - across the water - was a fair distance. I remember my dad asking me if I thought I could throw a rock across to the other side. We both had pretty good throwing arms. I could throw home-runs in some local ball diamonds. After several tries - I finally launched one over to the other side. My dad came close (and despite what he might say when he reads this) he didn't quite make it. Now - more than 25 years later - I just needed to give it another try. It was just something I had to do. I wanted another shot at it. Could I still do it?
Another important goal involved meeting up with several other CBR125R forum members at our annual gathering - this time near Bancroft, ON, just a few hours ride north east of Toronto. I met up with them already at Balsam Lake a couple of years ago, and at Wakami Lake Provincial Parks last year (both were covered in my previous trip reports). I enjoyed both gatherings immensely and looked forward to another eventful get-together.
Here is a Google Maps capture of the first portion of my trip. From Thunder Bay to Rabbit Blanket Lake Provincial Park just south of Wawa, ON. This first leg would be about 522 kms (326 miles) with several stops for photos.
I'd also been eager to try out some new gear and embark on the first tour with my newest acquisition - a 2011 CBR125R picked up in September 2012. Shortly after it was purchased - it was endowed with the 4-valve 149cc engine hand-me-down that was recently cradled inside of my 2009 CBR125R chassis. I loved the new 2011 re-design of the CBR125R and so was really looking forward to this engine breathing new life into the updated bike. One significant change to my setup this time around involved a Hepco & Becker rear rack, and a Givi E55 Maxia top case - the largest one they make. If it was any larger - I could curl up in it and use it as a tent. I admit that I've been resisting adding a hard case to any of my bikes out of handling and balance concerns mostly stemming from the prospect of having a large bulbous and heavy container sticking out and up from the back of my bike. I needn't have worried. Handling never seemed adversely affected, aside from presenting a formidable barrier to the wind at highway speeds. Still - the convenience of having quick to load, and easy to secure - lockable storage - outweighs any other foreseeable negatives for me. Many think this case is overkill for such a small bike - and they'd be correct. Yet when you're camping exclusively and are carrying what essentially amounts to a bed and home with you on the bike - the extra carrying capacity is always appreciated. Speaking of which - there was at least one other additional perk to this new setup that had me excited. My cot could now be quickly and easily latched onto the front arms of the rack. It was like a revelation. Two carabiner bungee cords - wrapped around a few times on each end - and secured to the struts. No more fussing and fiddling trying to find creative ways to carry my cot. I also purchased a pair of Sidi Canyon water-proof riding boots. This is my fourth pair of supposedly water-proof boots. I've been told that "Unlike what has been said about other boots - these ones are actually water-proof". The best I can say is that they haven't leaked yet.....
Invariably, just before I departed I found myself plagued by obsessive thoughts that I was forgetting something important. Riding a motorcycle on a camping and touring adventure means there are so many little things to remember to bring. Still - I decided to fill up in town - to ensure that I wasn't 200kms away when I suddenly discovered via an empty pocket - a jolt of electricity throttling my spine - and a eidetic mind's eye image of my wallet sitting in the garage on the shelf next to the can of Invisible Glass - that I was missing something.
After fueling I rode out Lakeshore Drive along Lake Superior for my obligatory warm-up and customary stop at Wild Goose Beach Park a mere 15 minutes east of the city. Why? I told myself that it was for practical reasons. For one last check to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. You know - and to ensure that the gear was still faithfully secured on the bike.
But the real reason involved paying my respects to Nanabijou - the Sleeping Giant out on Lake Superior - the rock solid centrepiece of the region - and iconic landmark of Thunder Bay. This time I noticed I wasn't the only one giving my regards. Despite his owner's insistence that he return to the car, this guy just sat there and stared out at the big lake. His owner didn't appear pleased. After she pleaded with him a bit - he slowly got up and faked both of us out - by heading down to the beach - in the opposite direction. Must be a male dog - I thought. Like me - he seemed similarly drawn to this place. And like a furiously focused honey badger - he just didn't care about no car ride! Hey - turns out we have a lot in common! I should have whistled and pointed to my pillion seat. I bet he would have been good company. Sorta like the motorcycle equivalent of B.J. & The Bear.
When some people ask me what it's like to ride a motorcycle along the north shore of Lake Superior - one thing I often tell them is that depending on the time of year - it can be a remarkably lonely experience. But if you are the kind of person who craves solitude and isolation once in a while - it might be one of the best lonely experiences you'll find anywhere. You rarely meet up with other people on your adventure. Laconic and depressed gas station attendants provide your only stimulating conversation for the day. It's just you and the bike. As I was riding the north shore this time - a song kept resonating through my head - an "earworm" is the scientific term. You know - the catchy tune that you just can't excoriate from your brain fast enough - and the harder you try - the more it starts ringing in your ears? I owe this one to Three Dog Night. ¯"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do".......¯
So what was it like riding the CBR150R out on the open road? It was evident with the large case out back that my drag coefficient was hovering around the freightliner truck range. Thankfully - I was only carrying my sleeping bag, air mattress, sandals, and rain gear in the Givi - so it remained light in weight. And while I made sure the heavy stuff was packed down low in my Ortlieb bags - the saddles stuck out enough that I'm sure they didn't help my aerodynamics much either. So despite carrying an abundance of weight and wind-fighting luggage - I found I was still able to cruise around 100km/hr (GPS) on the flats in top (6th) gear - sitting straight up - most of the time. I opted to go one tooth down on the front sprocket - so cruising at this speed placed me right on top of the torque peak for the CBR150R. What about the long, steep hills that tower over the north shore? The smaller ones I was able to climb in 5th at about 90km/hr. For some of the larger ones - it required a downshift to 4th and a comfortable 80km/hr. I could have ascended them faster if desired - but there was no need. I was alone for most of the trip - and there wasn't any one around to hold up. ¯"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do....¯"
But is it crazy to want to ride a CBR150R on a 10-day, 4000km camping adventure? Maybe. Particularly if you are used to riding a Goldwing and are looking for something a little lighter in weight that handles better. This wouldn't be the bike for you. You need to be physically and mentally prepared. Think of it as somewhat akin to the banshee-like flying creatures in Avatar ...... (O.K. - trust me - I think I know where I'm going with this). You may believe that the bike is the right fit for you - and that you have selected it. However, the harsh reality is that the bike actually selects you. If you aren't worthy it'll tell you. Granted - it won't try to spit you off like this epic Spanish rider's tank slapper (see here for reference:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fa0GmdSN4A ) but you will be fighting it.
As mentioned, one of my goals for this trip was to try to capture some photos of Lake Superior and the north shore scenery that I hadn't captured previously. This presents quite a challenge and requires some thoughtful preparation. On each of my trips east of Thunder Bay - I've always stopped at this lookout about 25kms east of Nipigon. The only thing that identifies it is a long highway hill - and then a roadside picnic table sign on the right-hand side of the road. This rest area includes outhouses and an incredibly spectacular view. I wish such rest areas were built on top of more climbs like this along Lake Superior.
While I made a conscious decision to focus more on scenery I hadn't captured on my previous trips - I just had to snap another photo of this view from the rest area lookout. It was hard to resist the urge - yet each time I travel this route the views look so different - that I never truly feel like I am taking the same photo twice.
Eager to snag a shot that I'd never taken before - I walked, stumbled, tripped, and then crawled through dense bush in the direction of the highway rock-cut - graciously taking one for the team - for your viewing enjoyment. All this bushwhacking yielded a photo that gives you a bit of a sense of what you'd be seeing coming from the opposite direction (heading west) along this route. Just out of the frame was a flagman directing traffic. I was dying to talk with him. ¯"One" is the loneliest number that you'll ever do....¯"
There. One original photo under my belt. And there would be more. I was both excited and somewhat apprehensive about the next photo. In a trip report from last year, I met a son and dad team camping at Neys Provincial Park who were riding Suzuki V-Stroms along the north shore. They had explored what they described as a treacherous road across from the park entrance that meandered up a high hill and ended at a communications tower. They insisted that my CBR wouldn't make it. I secretly regarded this as a challenge. Yet I realized that I wouldn't have another rider available if something went awry. Still - I do have an affinity for high points - and one of my goals was to snap some original shots of the north shore - right?!? How would it turn out? Stay tuned for Part II.
Nanabijou screwed with this post 08-09-2013 at 11:20 AM