Great roads, great weather, great day
|Travel From||–||Shimian, China|
|Ending Location||–||MiYi, China|
|Miles Driven Today||–||207 Miles|
|Total Trip Mileage||–||12779 Miles|
|Countries visited Today||–|
|Countries visited on trip||US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China|
We left the hotel at 8:30, after a pretty awful breakfast. The only bit of food that resembled anything from the west were mini corn muffins. So, it wasn’t hard to finish breakfast in about 10 minutes, and then head out to the bike.
A quick cleaning of the windshield, and I’m ready for the day. We had been told to expect to ride about 370 Km, but in the end, we traveled only 184 miles, which is about 296 Km, much less than the 370 Km expected.
The Mountain Passes
We knew that we’d be experiencing some more mountain passes. At least one of these passes was expected to be above 8000 feet, through the rain forest again. As it turns out, that’s exactly what we got.
In addition, after exiting the first pass, we found ourselves between 3500 feet and 5000 feet for the rest of the trip.
The weather in these rain forests is usually wet, and very high humidity. So, as we started to climb, it was not a surprise to have some mist on my glasses, and on the visor. But, a very pleasant thing happened.
At about 10:00 AM, perhaps a bit earlier, the sun came out, and we found ourselves riding in sunshine, and since we were not in a rain forest for the entire trip, and the rain forest was only present during the first mountain pass, we started to see weather that is perfect for riding motorcycles in the mountains.
With the sun on our backs, and the curves laid out ahead of us, we had a chance to start to enjoy the curves. So, let me describe what the turns are like…
First of all, much of the road is concrete, not asphalt, as is common in the US. Usually, concrete roads in the US are uneven, and broken up, but these roads are in pretty good shape. Because the concrete slabs are simply a way to get up the mountain, there are hundreds of hairpin turns, which are usually on an incline, or a decline.
Navigating these turns requires practice, and some knowledge of how a MotoGP racer might approach the turn. So, here’s how it works…
Tip it in
You approach the turn at a comfortable speed, which will vary, based on riding ability, and road traction. At just the right point in time, you “tip it in”, and let the bike begin to flow through the turn. When I say that you tip it in, that’s because this is how it’s described in MotoGP, and it’s also exactly what it feels like, when you get it right.
Entering the turn at a given speed will feel good if you tip it in, and uncomfortable if you brake, and turn the bike in, rather than tipping it in. Any motorcycle riders will instantly know what I mean.
So, you’ve tipped the bike in, and now you need to manage the incline, and the apex, and the exit of the turn. To do this, you must force yourself to look away from the road in front of you, and instead, look further ahead, up the hill, perhaps 40 yards or even 60 yards, or even 100 yards into the distance. The amount of distance will vary, depending on the turn, but the point is that you force yourself to look further ahead, taking your focus away from the road immediately in front of you.
Exit the turn
Now, you begin to accelerate, at the same time that you let the bike float towards the center-line of the road. You obviously don’t want to cross the center-line, as there might be an oncoming car, but it’s good behavior, and a demonstration of good skill if you let the bike float to the center, while accelerating. And the, as they say on the shampoo bottle, “Lather, rinse and repeat”.
The enjoyment comes from repetition
So, you do this over and over, at every turn. Downhill turns are similar, but slightly different. On a downhill turn, you tip it in, just like before, but in these turns, its critical to let the momentum of the bike stay constant. You don’t want to brake, and you don’t want to adjust the steering too much. If you do need to make adjustments, then it’s best to do this by pressing on the handlebar, not by actually turning the bike.
Now that you understand how it works
So, these few paragraphs explain the complexities of the turn. Now, imagine that you’re doing this over and over, turn after turn. it’s addicting, and lots of fun.
Occasionally you’ll make a mistake, and you’ll feel a bit uncomfortable for a moment. But that’s part of the fun of it. Mistakes can take on several different shapes.
You might run wide in the turn, and when that happens, you’ll gently apply rear brake, settle the bike, and turn in a bit more. Or, you might come into the turn too hot, and in this case, you’ll need to apply a bit of front and rear brake, and then force yourself to tip it in, even if it feels uncomfortable. The reason for this is that tipping it in gives you the right lean angle, and the bike is settled in the turn, but if you try to ride through the turn in a more upright posture, you’ll feel uneasy throughout the whole of the turn, and you’ll likely run wide, which is a problem if there is oncoming traffic.
So, how do I summarize?
In summary, if you’re a speed demon of any kind, then what I described to you should sound familiar, and it should resonate with you. If you’re not, then I hope that you can appreciate what we’re talking about, just a little bit more.
Lunch today was in a larger city. I don’t know the name, but it looked to be a city of at least 750K people. Anyway, we found parking on the sidewalk, directly in front of the restaurant, which is a strange phenomena in its own right.
It seems that these restaurants usually love having the bikes out front. It creates a buzz, and lots of people gather around. usually, the owners also ask to take a picture with several of us.
Today, we have several vegetarian dishes, and some pork dishes, as usual. And, as usual, they were delicious.
It’s a breakaway
For the last thirty miles, I rode alone. I came upon the group, who had stopped for a photo shoot at something that did not interest me. As they were sitting on or near their bikes, I waved, and I continued to the hotel by myself.
I rode for 25 of the the 30 miles, and was enjoying the turns, and also doing my best to be safe when passing trucks, goats, cattle, etc. In any case, the fast/lead group caught me at 4.5 miles to go, and I stepped it up a notch, trying to stay ahead of Bruno, who was in hot pursuit.
In any case, I got to the hotel about a minute before everyone, but I had missed the turn for the parking lot, ending up instead at the back entrance. After it became obvious that the gate would not open, I went around the block, entered at the correct entrance, and found another 6 riders, who had just pulled in 30 seconds before.
Report from the road
We arrived at the hotel at about 4:45 PM. I checked into the hotel, and put my gear in my room. I headed downstairs for a beer, and to shoot the breeze with a few other riders.
The hotel is much cleaner than yesterday’s hotel, but it’s also not exactly a model for good housekeeping. The carpets are much cleaner, but the restaurant was dirty, and in chaos when we arrived at dinner.
With that said, it’s time for bed.
What will tomorrow bring?
Tomorrow, we’ll travel about 203 miles to Lijiang, where we’ll spend the night at the Intercontinental. We’re told that we’ll be riding through the part of China that grows mango, so I’m really excited to try some fresh mango.
The ride should take us through more mountain passes, but the weather will play a big part in determining if we’re cold or baking in the hot sun. We’ll have to wait and see.