Friday, April 18, 2014

Vacation's are better when everyone is laughing

KGB, those initials used to strike fear into people, now they elicit laughter each summer.
This will be my 9th year producing a funny vacation for hundreds of people. A fun little party known as The Kootenay Gut Buster or KGB for short.
I do it because I love the sound of laughter, it's addicting. Add in an outdoor, pristine mountain setting and its even more addicting. Its also a helluva a lot of fun. Despite all the work involved it is still a vacation for me, one with lots of running around but it beats being stuck in the city.

What started as a fun getaway-weekend for 4 stand-up comics has grown into an event that folks are now planning their summers around just so they can attend.
It's also has become a favorite motorcycle destination for many, in fact last year a group of 4 riders made it up from San Diego California to Crawford Bay British Columbia where the Kootenay Gut Buster happens. They just re-booked for 2014!
Last year the audience was about 1/3 motorcycle riders. It was almost like a bike rally where cagers could hang out with bikers and find out...we're people just like them, we just have a passion for riding and we also love to laugh...a lot!!

The KGB show is 2 nights of comedy plus live music in the great outdoors. It takes place in the Crawford Bay Community Park (which has covered seating...just in case) and is just a short walk from town amenities.
Top stand-up comics show up to perform on a working vacation because they want to be in the area. THAT'S what this event is all about, an experience... a comedy vacation experience. Something you will talk about for a long time. You just can't get that at any regular comedy club.

Add in the scenic and wonderful area it's held in, with all its attractions and you may just not want to leave. I know I find it hard to depart each year.Its why I chose this area to produce the show. I discovered it 10 years ago and have visited every summer since. One year I made 6 separate visits, I am so taken by the charm and beauty of the area. Lately I have gone out during winter to ski. The Kootenay area of British Columbia is something I encourage everyone to discover.

The pace is relaxed, the hustle of the city is not only gone but so is the fakeness of chain stores and chain restaurants with their faux environments. Nope, here it's ma and pa shops and I have never been disappointed.
There are artisan shops, beaches, hotsprings, golfing, hiking and ton of things to do by day. We'll make you laugh at night.
KGB WebSite
See you there!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 effective ways to beat P.M.S.

Parked Motorcycle Syndrome

Winter here in Calgary has been unusually harsh this year, as it has in many areas, but even our beloved warm chinook winds seem to have forsaken us. Not one mid-winter ride to calm the soul has happened. Its times like these many riders suffer P.M.S. (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) almost to the point of depression. It affects both men and women.
There are things to do to overcome this feeling and feel like motorcycling is a part of your life again. If your pockets aren't deep enough to ship your bike, or rent one in a warm area, don't despair, you're not alone. P.M.S. affects many riders with less than deep pockets. Friends who don't embrace motorcycling are  useless as a support group. They just don't know how devastating P.M.S. can be to a rider.
Here are some sure fire ways to help reduce the symptoms and get you through until spring.

1) Work on your motorcycle:
If you are lucky enough to have an insulated garage, or perhaps you're one of those dudes that brings your ride into the house, now is the time to go over it. Look for loose wires, tighten all bolts and work on those little modifications you've wanted, service what needs servicing. Believe me, when the sun comes out you don't want to be wrenching.
If you don't have the luxury of indoor space and use your local shop for servicing get it in there during the winter months. The shop is not as busy, they don't have to rush your job and you won't be waiting in line like many others who waited until the last minute. Just knowing your bike is ready for the season works wonders on P.M.S. and if you do your own wrenching its therapeutic for both you and your bike.
Work on your bike

2) Go over your riding gear:
Velcro closures may need replacing, broken zippers, etc. When spring time comes don't expect to get your riding garment in and out of repairs the same week. Like bike shops you'll wait. If your gear needs repair leather shops are usually less busy this time of year. Again, why wait until everyone else? Riding garments, whether leather or textile need a bit of attention now and then.
If you need to replace riding gear now is the best time for shopping. Shops and online stores are like other retail outlets in that this is their slow time and they're eager to make a deal. Sales are everywhere. Your bike won't mind if you go out and buy a new outfit just for riding.

3) Plan your trips:
Nothing makes P.M.S. easier to take than dreaming about that next epic trip. There are many online forums, magazines, social media sites filled with touring info. Decide where you wish to go and start researching things to see. You don't need a travel plan carved in stone but something a bit more accurate than "Go west" will make a much more fulfilling trip with interesting stops.
With careful planning you can estimate the costs so you start saving now. I once financed 27 days on the road with spare change. Each day I'd throw all my change into a bowl. You'd be surprised how fast it adds up with Canada's 1 and 2 dollar coins.
Plan a group trip with your riding buddies and book the rooms well in advance. 

Plan that epic trip

4) Read stories of trips:
Living vicariously through the pages of someone else's adventure can help ease the winter blahs as you travel along.  Late at night flipping through pages of well written road stories can ease the P.M.S.
One book I recommend for a fun and lighthearted read is Motorcycle Therapy by Jeremy Kroeker

He takes us on a journey all the way to Panama Canal and back.  I found it really enjoyable and filled with light humour all the way through. A very enjoyable read.
There are many other books out there. Search around. You can spend a bit of each day escaping through the pages to heal your P.M.S.

5) Do a motorcycle movie night:
Recently I gathered several of my good riding buddies at the house to watch "Why we ride". With the sound system cranked we all watched people tell their riding histories as images of motorcycles streaked across the screen . Great footage greeted our eyes and took us back to our summer. The excitement in the room, and road stories that poured out afterward lifted everyone's spirits.  It was just what everyone needed to kick their P.M.S. out for awhile. I'll admit, we even went out to the garage and fired up the bikes....just to hear them.
There are many motorcycle themed movies plus YouTube is filled with many short ones with this channel as my favourite.
Of course, I'm biased about that one.
I do know that spring will eventually be here, which is the true cure for P.M.S. I hope you all can cope with us riders until it does.
- Daryl Makk

Monday, February 17, 2014

Long term test review- Tourmaster Epic Series Jacket

For three riding seasons I have been using the Epic Series touring jacket from Tourmaster.
Here is my video of my long term review.
Video link

Thursday, November 28, 2013

5 best ways to enjoy your motorcycle breakdown

Lets face it, we want to ride, not sit by the side of the road, but sometimes Murphy's Law will alter your plans no matter what. Suddenly your motorcycle doesn't make vroom vroom noises anymore or makes new funny ones or perhaps something just broke because an animal wanted to take a high-speed look at your ride. The number of things that can go wrong are as endless as the things that can go right on a motorcycle trip. Before you max out your credit card to drag your ride home always remember the old phrase, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Breakdowns don't have to end your trip
The best way to not have a breakdown ruin your entire trek is to prepare for as much as you can before hand. That said we all know things don't always go as planned. Suddenly you are by the side of the road. I've found the more prepared you are to deal with problems determines if this little side stop might not just turn out to be fun. Here are a few ways to ensure the event is not a disaster and may just become a great story to tell your pals.

1- Take care of yourself first.
You can't solve a problem if you're hungry or thirsty
Unless your bike is in immediate danger the FIRST thing you need to do is relax. If you bike is safely off the road take a break. It seems odd but you'd be amazed how a bad situation can escalate if you rush into fixing it.
Always have a bit of food and water with you. Beef jerky, granola bars and trail mix keep for long periods without refrigeration and can be enough to stave off the hunger angers.
Ask any long distance rider about breakdowns and many times they'll tell you it happens just before your planned meal stop. A bit of food and water will boost your energy and improve your mood while you ponder the situation. Trying to deal with a breakdown while hungry and thirsty rarely ends well. You'll be upset, maybe a bit shakey and not thinking clearly. Take a break, the problem isn't going anywhere. Sometimes help arrives while you are having your snack and you may just have a cool photo opp to share when you get home.

2- Know your bike and don't be afraid to wrench on it.


We live in an information world. No matter what you ride their are online forums and groups that are dedicated to your brand and at times even dedicated to your specific model. Before heading out, take time to search those forums and groups. Looks for threads on problems others have incurred. Should you develop the same gremlins on the road some knowledge gleaned from the forums may help you narrow your trouble shooting areas. Even better you may discover a potential problem  and take care of it at home before it halts your trip. Simple things like wires that are frayed due to rubbing and vibration can be very easy to fix while still at home, instead of roadside after they've shorted out.
You don't have to be a red-seal mechanic but a bit of basic understanding of the gizmos, doodads and thing-a-ma-jigs, what they do and how they are attached, will come in handy. Check with local shops. Some put on workshops that cover basic maintanance. If they don't suggest it. In my city of Calgary Universal Cycle has such workshops and even has one just for the ladies.
Get a service manual that can help you learn how to do some of the work yourself and save you money. Just know your limits before you decide to attempt something like a top end rebuild for the first time. However, if you need to know the proper way to access things on your bike service manuals are worth their weight in gold. For travel I have a digital version in PDF form which is easily stored in a laptop or tablet for easy access on the road.
Before you pull out that credit card for that oh so expensive tow to a dealer, plus repair bill, why not diagnose it yourself? You may just be able to MacGyver a way to get the bike running and ride to a dealer and at least avoid the tow bill.
Sometimes a break down can be as simple as something that worked its way loose due to vibration. I've stopped to reattach many parts I was sure were bolted down proper.
I had a friend that learned his sport-touring bike was prone to voltage rectifier failure and with very little warning when it did fail. On long trips he'd carry a spare just in case it decided to quit in the middle of nowhere. 

3- Strangers can be friends
When ever I have been on the side of the road, with a bike that isn't going anywhere, I am amazed at how complete strangers just stop and offer help, tools, fuel or at least make sure you are okay. You may make lasting friends due to your mishap.
Enroll in motorcycle groups. I belong to the BMW Owners of America (BMWOA) and they have a special book they publish of fellow riders that offer places to stay, garage space, advice, tools, directions to repair facilities or just a friend to chat with.
There are many owners groups out there to consider buying a membership from and they are even more valuable when they are brand specific to what you ride. The worse that can happen is you meet a new riding pal that steers you in the right direction of a good shop or, great roads once your problem is solved.
If you have an uneasy feeling about someone who is offering help trust your instincts and don't hop into a car with them to go and fetch parts, fuel etc. A true biker friend will know you wish to stay with your ride and will return with items needed.

My friend Keith who helped when my fuel pump quit- Antigonish NS

4- Bring some extra gear
Besides the usually pathetic tool kit most manufacturers include with your motorcycle you should always bring some of your own. If you've done some of your own wrenching you'll soon learn the commons sized bolts that you may need to adjust. A small socket kit with a variety of heads is handy. I string the sockets on a pipe cleaner so they are easy to pack and are always together. Fuses, wire connectors, pliers and small lengths of wire are always handy. Spare nuts and bolts are always good to include as well.
A tire repair kit can be the difference of riding to the next shop or having a very expensive tow truck take it there for you. Can you tell I don't like seeing my ride on the back of a tow truck yet?
A roll of duct tape and zip ties can be enough to patch broken fairing pieces back together should you have an animal impact or drop your bike.
Being able to add more clothing is a plus especially if the temperature starts to turn. I live near the Rocky Mountains so, even on short day trips, extra layers are with me as our weather can change drastically in a short time. If you are not a tenting type you may still want to consider a small nylon tarp in case you have to set up a small lean-to or cover over your  bike to fix a problem while its raining. Its much more enjoyable when you are dry, trust me.

5- When the break down is you
Sometimes the reason you're parked at the side of the road is due to injury or health issue. We've all had that lunch special in a greasy dinner that just didn't sit well. Maybe it was the excessive fresh fruit you pigged out on yesterday but for what ever reason your body is telling you to find a toilet and fast. What if you're in the middle of nowhere? 
I see the men's room right behind those trees!

A small roll of toilet paper, or collection of napkins from eateries, can be the difference between answering the call of nature or throwing out some stained clothes. Plus they are always handy just to blow your nose when the ol' sniffer gets congested.
Maybe your intestines and gut are doing just fine but you've taken a bug in the eye and need to rinse it out. If you've got water you can solve this. Perhaps you've had an allergy sneezing fit or just got stung from an angry wasp that flew into your jacket or, worse yet, helmet. Antihistamines are great to have on hand for such occasions. Swelling of the sting can be reduced by taking one immediately. This is extremely important if stung on the face. You don't want an eye to swell shut if the sting is near there. If you have a cold beverage use it as a cold pack to further take the effects of the sting away.
You should also never leave on a trip without a small first aid kit. Painkillers are a must for all sorts of aches that can make you unsafe to ride. Migraines, back ache and other distractions can stop the trip. I also like to travel with packets of electrolytes for extreme heat when sudden muscle cramps can set in due to dehydration.
Items for all sorts of situations

Remember, just because your bike is not working does not mean your trip is over. Nor does a small health issue need to end your ride. With a bit of preparation and knowledge you'll be able to beat Murphy and his Law of "What can go wrong, will." to "When things go wrong I can beat this!"
There's nothing quit like that feel-good moment when you stomp a problem down just by being ready. Enjoy your next roadside breakdown and make it a fun event. Don't forget to snap a pic.
- Daryl Makk and The Planet Tour

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Give thanks for motorcycles, nice weather and great friends

Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving holiday mid-October, a month before the USA. I'm pretty sure our weather has something to do with it. Perhaps I'll Google it later and find out if I'm bored enough to know.
A group of riding friends gathered at Planet Tour headquarters for a night of celebration and copious amounts of food and drink. The following day a ride was planned, 5 bikes and 6 people.
Sunny October sky

Since we had so much food left over, one of the group suggested a Thanksgiving picnic. With turkey bun-wiches, salads and a pumpkin pie we set out. The food packed in cooler bags and stored in the bikes with full luggage. As the sun warmed the day we headed west and south from Calgary. Our destination was Sheep River Falls area.
This year's Thanksgiving weather was nothing short of amazing for this time of year in Alberta.
A crisp fall morning soon gave way to a rapidly warming sun. There was little to be had for a breeze. Fall days like this just put a smile on my face. Our first fuel stop most of us were peeling off layers as the blue sky and sun embraced us.
Thomas the stuffed turkey mascot on a test flight
A short while later we found ourselves on a road I had yet to explore,  Highway 546 just west out of of Turner Valley, AB. The road winds through the foothills before becoming Township road 194A. Traffic was light, almost as light as road maintenance. The pavement became progressively worse, each bike slowing to pick their way through the potholes, broken pavement and several Texas gates with bumpy crossings. There was one dual sport bike which was way in the lead, seemingly unaffected by the rough road. I made a note to look into getting one.
While a group of sport bikes and sport touring bikes are best suited to nice black top, the road was passable by taking it easy, which was fine as it allowed one to take in the scenery. Fall colors greeted us with tones of yellow, orange and in some areas green still. Nature was wearing her fall colors with style.
Our intended destination area was closed due to the earlier floods Alberta had in June. Our dual sport rider had managed to scout ahead and find a spot before the slower sport bikes caught up (I never thought I'd ever write those words LOL). Soon we were hauling all our goodies past families that also had the same picnic idea.
I suppose bikers carrying a pie, veggie platter and bags of turkey on a bun looked harmless as the usual reaction to "bikers" was not there. Maybe it was the fact one rider had brought Thomas, a stuffed turkey toy, for the occasion. Smiles and hellos abounded as we greeted tables on our way to a vacant one. Thomas served duty as our center piece but not before a test flight or 2. 

Despite snow being visible in the shadows of the forest the day was warm and almost springlike. It was one of those "good to be alive" days, something to truly give thanks for. The group went into action, two of them collecting wood for a campfire (for ambiance) and the rest of us getting the feast laid out on the table. It mattered not that we were having some of the same stuff as the night before, the scenery seemed to make the food burst with new flavor and fun.

Thomas enjoying the meal.

With Sheep River babbling near by, the fresh air warmed by the afternoon sun and the camaraderie of good friends. What more could you ask for?

Sheep River

Thanksgiving bikers
Here's hoping you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Whether you celebrate this holiday or not my advice is when someone comes up with a fun idea on a nice fall day be thankful you were included. To our American friends, I hope your holiday goes well next month.
Daryl, the gang and Thomas
A fun group, thanks for being there Shannon, Brian, Lasia, Carl and Matt

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Its the little things that count

Forget Me Not Pond- Alberta

Based on the title and the limits of storage on a motorcycle you'd almost think that this might be another article for packing small. Relax, it's not.

I would like to focus on the little places one can discover, the places not found in  glossy brochures. Little hidden gems tucked away in unique locations that make you wonder why more people do not visit it, then again, maybe its best they don't. These places are my favorite  memories even though sometimes what you find only lasts for awhile and then its gone.
While doing some of my early motorcycle runs last year I took time to stop at "Forget me not pond"  on Highway 66 just southwest of Calgary in Little Elbow Provincial Park
Less than an hour from Canada's 4th largest city, visitors are treated to a pristine pond, often sporting a mirror like surface, surrounded by trees, stunning alpine views and that big, beautiful, blue  sky of Alberta.

If you visit early in the day, before any wind picks up, the pond surface is like glass creating that reflection off the water that makes me conjure up my best Forrest Gump impression: "It was like there were 2 skies Jenny".
The water is clear and inviting but I warn you, diving in may cause "shrinkage". Remember, this is mountain country where water is freshly melted from snow and it's icy cold.
While the pond is accessible to all who drive out and is easily found on maps and in brochures, it still has its hidden treats you have to find on your own.
A short walk past the picnic sites brought me to a clearing near the river. The Elbow River rushes past on its way to tumble over Elbow falls then on to Calgary to help feed the city's water supply.
It was back here, off the paths, where few wander, that gave me a sense of adventurous roaming. This is where I discovered the great picnic table pyramid! The parks department had been storing picnic tables back here and someone had taken the time to stack some into a pyramid.
Great Canadian Picnic Pyramid

All I had, in my haste to get out and ride, was my smart phone to record the moment and I had no assistant. I wish I had my camera, with the timer, with me as I would have loved a picture of me climbing the pyramid. One of just the tables would have to suffice.
A chattering squirrel near by and a raven circling overhead were my only company as I clicked away at this "monument to the picnic gods"...or whatever it was supposed to represent. It just had that "Meanwhile in Canada..." moment written across it.
A few weeks later I was back in the area and wandered back in toward the river. The picnic tables were all gone. No more Canadian pyramid. I could only assume the parks department had hauled them off to their new locations.
Moral of the story: Always take advantage of viewing anything unique or cool while you have the chance .

Apes love open fires

Nothing is permanent. If you have a camera with you record it. Save the memory of cool sites you see. You never know when the moment is gone or if you will even see it again. I mean really, how often does a guy in a gorilla suit crash your bonfire? Better snap that pic just in case.
Enjoy your journey

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review of an extinct tank bag.

I do reviews, from time to time, on some of the gear I use on The Planet Tour but this is going to be a different kind of review. Mainly due to the fact that this product is  no longer available for you to buy.
Say what?

Its a tank bag whose only marking is "KG" stamped into the leather flap on the front. I've searched and searched but the KG Tank Bag company, or anything about a KG tank bag no longer exists. I'm not even sure what model it is or where it was made. I did find one on ebay though so they sold a few.
It's the history behind this particular bag as to why I decided to do a product review on it. Call it a posthumous product review
The bag was sponsored in a way.
No longer available KG Tank Bag

I had been using a magnetic bag on my old bike, but my new bike's tank is all plastic so I was in search of a replacement. My good friend and riding buddy, James Moore, (creator of Comedy Monday Night ) loaned me his old tank bag while I was without.
This bag had some history.
It was used by James on his solo trip down the west coast over a quarter century ago when he strapped it to his trusty Yamaha 650 Seca along with a small duffle on the back. He used it from Calgary to San Diego plus many other trips.

The KG on the new K1300S 25 years later
This same bag was used again on the 25th anniversary of that same epic trip in 2009, a trip I was lucky enough to go on. James found it fitting to use the same, old, reliable, tank bag and he strapped it to his shiny new BMW K1300S. It had been stored in his garage for many years. The map pocket window had started to discolor but other than that, everything was functional. Despite the age gap this 80's vintage bag did not look out of place on this sleek new touring missile.
For 27 days we played down the coast on the famed Pacific Coast Highway. The bag worked wonderfully. He could now say that he rode down the coast of California and back twice with the same tank bag on trips separated by a mere 25 years. After all these years it was still serviceable so, when James offered it up for my use I thought,  "Why not?".
At Mile Zero - Alaska Highway

It strapped on easily, to my BMW K1200RS I bought in 2010, with an anchor strap that went around the steering head plus two more that came up from under the seat. It was very easy to attach. I then loaded it up and went across Canada. This well traveled bag was about to get another workout. It faced heavy rain, hot sun, humidity, salt air and a lot of over-stuffing by me.
The map pouch was easy to access, even with gloves and the main compartment had plenty of storage. In addition there were side compartments for those odds and ends you need to keep at the ready.
It was home for my cameras so I was happy the rain cover was still usable. I used this vintage tank bag for over 20,000  kilometers and it worked wonderfully. Maybe that is why KJ is no longer in business, no repeat customers?
Loaded with lots of gear

The bag worked well but only had one design shortcoming; the rain cover, but that goes for all tank bags that use rain covers. Is it that difficult to make a bag that can survive the elements without having to put a heavy duty shower cap on it? While the covers do make the bag waterproof they can come loose at highway speed plus they also require you to stop the bike to put them on. This is not always possible with surprise showers. I then searched for a waterproof tank bag that would suit my needs and came up empty.
Since I couldn't get a KG and was unable to find a fully waterproof tank bag I went one better and made my own tank case.
I purchased a small, used Pelican brand case for my cameras and an aftermarket locking ring system to attach it to my gas cap ring.
Now I have a waterproof, shockproof case that mounts up off the tank with no contact to the paint surface. I am sure its the kind of system KG would have come up with eventually.
Its not quite as roomy as the KG but I believe it will suffice.
The new tank "case"

Thanks again to James Moore of Comedy Monday Night for the use of his classic KG tank bag.

Loaded up
Now, I look forward to testing my new one.