One Week Until Lift Off

I’m starting to panic. Not an all out “the world’s coming to an end” panic, more a gentle feeling in the pit of my stomach. In a week I am getting on my motorbike and driving to Vancouver. Then Phil and I are starting a 35,000km adventure. I am not ready!

The racks that will hold my panniers onto my bike have not arrived. I don’t have a mosquito net. I have not yet attempted to change a tire on my bike. The lid of my tool tube fell out and I have not yet figured out how to stop that from happening again. I just sent my seat off to the middle of nowhere to be rebuilt. The list is endless.

I met Phil in Sicamous last week. It was the first time our bikes had been together.

Cricket, meet Phil’s bike.

It gave Phil a chance to ride my bike (who I have now named Cricket), and gave both of us the opportunity to ride for 5 hours each way and get used to our bikes on the long haul. I was riding on a borrowed Corbin seat. I wasn’t comfortable. This is why my seat has now been sent away for improvements.

Before the trip I did quite a lot of work on my bike, and I will do a separate post soon about all the modifications I have completed. This has been how you’ll find me a lot of the time.

Rocking those coveralls. And yes, I have a cushion in my workshop.

I also learnt how to make vinyl stickers.

Look at all those beautiful stickers! (Thanks Silvana for the great design!)

It’s the 100th Calgary Stampede at the moment, so there’s lots of fun distractions to be had around here. I’m trying to balance that with the need to put my new steel brake cable on, and find time to change my tires, sprockets and chain.

My friend Trish came to visit with her husband so this weekend the Stampede won.


I have to admit, I am enjoying juggling between being a mechanic, a friend, a cowgirl, a sticker producer and a world adventurer. Those butterflies in my stomach are a good thing – will help me prioritise getting myself and the bike ready for the Ultimate Ride. (Even though procrastinator is my middle name…)




The 50,001st Kilometre

I rode the 50,001st Kilometer on Phil’s bike.

Last week I drove to Vancouver to see Phil and to pick up several boxes I had shipped from London. We also ended up bringing quite a lot of Phil’s stuff back to my parents’ house as he will be moving out of his current residence in July when we leave on the Ultimate Ride.

It’s a simple route from Calgary to Vancouver – but a very long drive:

There’s only one road in Canada

Riding Phil’s bike was the first time I had ridden another KLR650 and I noticed differences between my bike and his immediately. His is somehow shorter than mine. I can put both feet flat down on the ground when sitting on his, but only the balls of my feet touch down on mine. The only explanation is the aftermarket suspension he has installed on his bike. Also his handlebars are higher (and blue). I liked this height, made it easier to stand on the pegs and still steer the bike with a feeling of control. (Standing on the pegs is important when riding on gravel and dirt.)

Here’s Phil on his bike, note all the luggage he has. I have luggage envy.

Phil and his KLR at 50,000km

Doing a 2000km road trip with my dad was really great. The drive over the Rocky Mountains was stunning and I haven’t had the opportunity for quality time with my dad over the past decade. A side effect of not living on the same continent. I may have driven him slightly mad listening to my Spanish lesson podcasts though.

The weather on the drive out was beautiful, clear and sunny. On the way home however it was very wet and rainy and by the time we got back to Calgary I was pretty much convinced that a heated vest is going to make me a happier motorcyclist. If I had been riding my bike on Thursday I would have been very, very wet. I am making that trip in a month’s time so need to be ready!

When we got home I had to get rid of Phil’s old Suzuki so that there was room in the garage for all our stuff. This is it on the trailer about to be taken away.

Goodbye old bike!

I’ve made a lot of progress on my motorcycle this past couple of weeks. I have bought aluminum panniers (but not yet figured out how I am going to mount them) and got a metal skid plate from another KLR rider who had an old one he didn’t need (thanks Rod!). A rider called Rick who lives in British Columbia is shipping me crash bars to protect my radiator and the side of my bike, and my BarkBusters (handlebar protection) and heated handgrips arrived this morning. Rick has ridden to South America before and sent me some great advice as well. I am so thrilled with the motorcycling community here in Canada – I have met (and corresponded with) so many fantastic people who are very happy to help and share their experience and knowledge.

The guy who sold me the panniers (Dirt Baggs) is called Colin. He replied to a “wanted” ad I put online and invited me to go to a Motorcycle shop in Calgary to see them (City Cycle – my new favourite motorcycle shop). I popped in there one afternoon and Colin happened to be sitting there talking to the owner Terry. They’d sold the set of boxes I had come to see, but I ended up spending a couple of hours in there getting great advice, several stories, and a set of new Heidenau tires for my bike. Colin later got me the boxes I bought, and also introduced me to his friend Craig. Craig owns two KLRs (among other bikes) and has ridden extensively in South America. I spent the day at his house yesterday where he helped me install the Thermo-Bob into my cooling system, and shared hours of stories and tips for our trip. I came away with a new friend, feeling inspired and even more excited about our trip (if that is even possible).

Craig’s KLR while demonstrating how to use a piece of pipe to prop up the rear wheel.

How to prepare a bike to change the rear tire with just a piece of pipe.

First thing I did this morning was convince my mum to donate a sheepskin rug to me and Phil to put on our seats.

One month now until the Ultimate Ride begins!

Almost Eaten by a Bear

Canada’s Rocky Mountains are one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Soaring mountains iced with snow and evergreens, icy turquoise lakes lay like puddles at their bases, connected by rushing rivers and babbling creeks.

Athabasca Falls

This past weekend I rode over 800km through the Canadian Rocky Mountains, from Calgary to Jasper, and back again.

I was volunteering as part of the race timing team for the Banff Jasper Relay Race. It was a great weekend and the odometer on my KLR passed 12,000km. (And I’ve nearly ridden 1,000km of them!)

Whilst overall I really enjoyed myself, I learnt a few very good lessons doing this “preparation ride”.

#1 – I am a happy rider until it gets below 7 degrees Celsius. At that point I get cold. The coldest I rode through was 4 degrees C when riding past the Columbia icefields. I was frozen and quite grumpy at that point. Then it started raining.

I am looking forward to my heated handgrips kit arriving!  (I also bought new waterproof/windproof gloves in Jasper because my fingers froze so much on Saturday.)

I may look happy but being so close to snow makes for chilly riding!

#2 – I want a larger windshield. I want it both to protect me from constant buffeting from the wind, and also to reduce wind noise on my helmet.

#3 – My butt goes numb after a couple of hours, and my current seat is too square. The corners press into my thighs and whilst not injury causing – it is annoying. A round seat would be better I think.

#4 – It was great to be able to speak to my dad in his car who was driving with me. We were using ham radios, with pretty basic headsets that dug into my ear (not made for wearing with a helmet). I need to get a comms solution for Phil and I that is comfortable and functional.

#5 – It’s easy to just keep going, and not stop for drinks and food. This isn’t a great idea. We need to remember to stop and refuel ourselves, not just the bikes.

#6 – It’s possible to track where we’re going. I used a new iPhone app to track my journey home yesterday from Jasper to Calgary – here’s the route I went:

416km – Not bad for a Sunday ride

#7 – Good gear makes a difference. My new jacket was great. Waterproof and breathable. I also like my new gloves!

Waterproof and breathable – although I didn’t go under the falls to test it!

#8 – I need to cut my hair. It gets into an awful tangled mess on the bike.

#9 – Need an easy way to take pictures from the bike. We saw lots of wildlife including six bears! This was one my dad managed to get a picture of from the side of the road.

Nice place to take a bear nap

One of the bears we saw was hanging out in the ditch beside the road. We stopped to get a good look and then he wandered behind another car so my dad took off again. Dad hasn’t figured out that I can’t just ride off, I need to have helmet and gloves on and everything organised before I can move. So I was there, adjusting my gloves, while the bear walked right behind me. I didn’t realise this, but Dad and my sister thought it was hilarious that I was almost eaten by a bear.

#10 – Don’t get eaten by bears.

My First Time

Today was my first time doing it in mud. It was my first time doing it on gravel, my first really windy road and my first KLR threesome!

It was also my first time getting it stuck…

That is not the way I meant to go. And why is there a hill in between my tires?

I had an absolutely brilliant day today.

I met up with fellow KLR rider Dave and his lovely wife Andy (who also has a KLR) and we rode about 80 km out of town to a scout camp my dad volunteers at a lot. I went there often growing up and I knew that gravel roads would be involved. Riding on gravel roads is like riding over marbles. The solid confidence that tarmac gives is immediately destroyed. The deeper the gravel the more the bike seems to swim through it.

The key is to stand on the footpegs, which lowers the bike’s center of gravity and makes the rider more capable of adapting to the changing road conditions. I got the hang of it on the straights, but the corners are pretty scary.

Once we arrived at the camp there was a whole new challenge. Dirt roads. Sometimes not even roads, just fields, and mud tracks. Dave and I went along several, and I learnt to ride over logs (small ones, make sure the bike hits it at 90 degrees) and go through muddy puddles. I wasn’t entirely successful at riding through mud. I dropped the bike AGAIN. I watched Dave go through it, it looked deep, and I panicked. I went in, lost my cool, and ended up standing with my bike at my feet. At least I didn’t end up face first in the mud. I think dropping the bike teaches me important lessons. Like Don’t Panic! Where’s my hitchhiker’s guide when I need it?

The picture above is another moment when I panicked, and ended up stuck in the trees. At least I didn’t drop the bike that time! Dave was brilliant, very patient, and gave me loads of great advice. Thank you Dave!

Despite the mishaps, I loved every minute of it, my boots are covered in mud, the bike is a mess, and I’m heading to the mountains tomorrow for more adventure.



Bugs 1 – Jayne 0

I rounded a corner and there was the city skyline, with the sun setting behind it. At that moment I couldn’t help breaking out into a huge smile. THIS is what the Ultimate Ride is going to be like. Encountering all the beautiful views the world has to offer on the back of a motorcycle. SMACK – Intense pain on my face. Was it a rock from a truck whacking into me? A hailstone from a clear sky? No. A measly little insect.

I now know how car windshields feel. Bugs smacking into you at 110km/hr hurt. A lot.

To date in my distinguished 7 month career as a motorcyclist I have been wearing an open face helmet. I’ve been agonising about which full face helmet to buy, and been paralysed by the amount of choice and configurations available.

This helmet has no bug diversion device. Ouch.

This week the weather has improved dramatically so I’ve been going out on the bike every day, and Sunday I went on a motorway (highway to you North Americans) for the very first time. I wasn’t allowed on motorways on my little 125cc Yamaha in London.

Riding fast on a wide open road is fantastic. You feel almost like you are flying with the wind in your hair, the tarmac wizzing past your feet, and the bugs smacking into your tender cheeks. Bet superman never mentioned that little issue with flying around at the speed of light.

So, my mission for this week is to finally bite the bullet and purchase a full face helmet. I’ll let you know what I end up with.

Doing the Doo

Yesterday I did my doo.

This is not some kind of special dance or weird ritual, the “doohickey” is a bit of metal in the engine of all KLR650 motorcycles that is prone to break (real name “Balancer Idle Lever”). The reason Phil’s bike’s engine was rebuilt before he bought it was because the doohickey failed and tore up the engine. So the first modification on my list was to replace the stock doohickey with a more robust one.

Two gaskets, one manual, one torsion spring and a Doohickey

I bought the bits I needed, borrowed the special tools required (thanks Vance) and put out a call on the forum for others wanting to do it with me, or to just come help. Turns out there’s another KLR owner called Chad who lives five minutes from my house. He also wanted to do his doo, so we planned a Saturday tech day.

The bikes in the workshop

This left us in a situation where we were very much the blind leading the blind – with a lot of assistance from the internet and YouTube! This was our favourite “how to” video.

We decided to work on Chad’s 2011 KLR first. With the exception of a dropped washer causing a bit of a panic (which we later found) the installation went very well – until it came time to hook the spring onto the Doohickey (the key part that provides the tension). We tried and tried to get it hooked on, but it was extremely difficult. At this moment, I checked my email and there was a message from another rider, Dave. He’d just seen my post about the tech day, he’s done five Doohickeys before, and we should call him if we had any trouble. We called him immediately and he said he’d come over and help. Fabulous!

We’d been working for a couple of hours by this point, so Chad and I decided to go grab some lunch and a rotor bolt while we waited for him. We went down to the nearby area where there are three motorcycle shops on the same block. None of them had the rotor bolt I wanted, but one of the mechanics told us he always reused the old rotor bolt and so I decided to just do that. Then came the adventure called “lunch”.

There is a place called Billy’s Burger Bar in that same area. My dad had mentioned that some friends of his used to go there, so we decided to try it. We walked in and it was immediately obvious that Billy doesn’t work there any more. The majority of the menu is now Chinese food. The people at the tables seemed to be enjoying it, but it was quite a shock to have to really search through the menu for any burgers. A case of not judging a book by its cover I guess. We both ordered mushroom and cheese burgers, which were delicious. A new kind of fusion dining experience.

By the time we got back to the house, Dave had arrived. Chad went to show him how difficult getting the spring on was, and it just went on in 3 seconds flat. Typical.

The three of us then smoothly put Chad’s bike back together (after ogling all the lovely farkles and modifications Dave has done to his bike, which is the same colour and year as mine is.)

Dave arrives to save the day

It was then my bike’s turn to have its tender bits entered. (tee hee) We were a lot more confident having already been through the process and I felt like we were a bit quicker the second time round.

The inside of my motor

The difference between my old Doohickey and the new one was quite drastic. The old one seemed almost fragile. I’ve put it on my bike’s key chain as a memento.

Old welded together one on the left, new one on the right

I also struggled to get the spring hooked into my doohickey, and I wasn’t 100% happy with the way the spring was sitting on top of it, but after a lot of messing around, it looked pretty close to the pictures online of how it should look. After getting both bikes back together and both of them started up without the sound of the engine exploding we felt pretty proud of ourselves.

Not quite the same as Phil’s victory yesterday though. Well done little bro!



Falling for me

I learnt yesterday that I am not able to pick up my bike on my own. This message was reinforced today… My bike is falling for me and it has to stop!

You may ask how I learnt this? Great question!

The good news is that yesterday I PASSED my motorcycle road test. WOO HOO!!! I was a bit nervous that I would roll through a stop sign or fail to stop for a pedestrian (both automatic fails) but I managed to drive properly and only get 20 points taken off (you fail if you have more than 75 deducted).

Basking in the glow of knowing one more major hurdle has been negotiated, we had some friends over for dinner last night. Our guests included Nathan, one of Phil’s oldest friends. Nate has been riding bikes for over a decade and while showing off my bike, I mentioned that Phil was threatening to push my bike over when he saw it to see if anything breaks and make sure I can pick it up. Nate got a glint in his eye and before I knew it the bike was on its side and I was being instructed to pick it up. (To be fair he didn’t push it over, he laid it down quite gently.)

I gallantly followed the instructions from my course last week. Crouch down, get your butt under the seat, grab the handlebars with one hand and the back of the bike with the other, stand up. It all went brilliantly until the “stand up” bit. I could barely move it. I certainly didn’t even come close to picking it up. Oh dear.

Just to make sure I couldn’t pick it up on my own, I gave myself an opportunity to try again this afternoon. I got my brand new license plate this morning, and after installing it on the bike, I took the bike for my first ride around the block. I was reminded how big this bike is compared to my little Yamaha and also how loud and rough. I understand why they are referred to as “thumpers”. While stopping at a stop sign I felt like the bike was about to stall, and in my attempt to rescue the situation, I put my right foot down on the road. The road was a lot further than I was expecting! Those extra few inches were enough to throw the bike off balance, and it being so heavy, down it went.

This experience allowed me to perfect my “helpless female in distress” technique, which involved pathetically trying to lift the bike and getting nowhere. A nice burly man in a pick up truck stopped and picked it up for me. Oh the shame.

My plan now is to develop a training programme where I use the bike as a weight, and do some squats with it. I hope that if I concentrate on it, I will strengthen the muscles in my legs and the bike will become light as a feather. Also probably as soon as I can pick it up, the bike will stop falling for me.