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Brass Monkey 2021

2,442 km, 135 litres of petrol, 2 ferry crossings, 3 days of riding in the rain..... all to go and hang around a bonfire, drink beer and freeze one's nuts off!  Was it worth it?  As our friend with the AC/DC brazier kept yelling after more wood went on the fire... F%&k yeah!

Sadly, that was the last Brass Monkey rally, so when I got a call from my good friend Alan at Yamaha NZ wanting to know if I was coming, it didn't take too much umming and arring before I hit the OK button.

The event had been running for 40 years.  A recent article in the NZ Herald provides a great detail of it's history. Click here to read all about it.

For this trip I was faced with a choice of two bikes.  A Yamaha R1 or a Yamaha Niken.  Despite a poll on Motoland's Instagram showed more support for the R1, the Niken was my choice.  More luggage space, heated hand grips and cruise control were just a few of the good reasons for the choice.  

I remember riding this bike at the Niken launch a couple of years ago and thought back then that this would be an awesome bike to tour on.  600km in a day was effortless.  Given it's winter and some of the road conditions likely to be encountered on this trip, the added grip of an extra wheel up front proved to be a winner in my book.

The trip down for me started in Napier with stops in Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown with stunning weather all the way down.  Given the soft nature of my two travelling companions it was hotels all the way.  Okay then, if you must.  

Because this was the Brass Monkey there had to be at least one night in a tent.  So on the Saturday morning we departed Queenstown, picked up a few last minute supplies (most of which we didn't need anyway) and headed for the Ida Valley.  On arrival we quickly selected a spot to camp and got ourselves sorted before descending upon the beer tent.

Supposedly this is one of the coldest places in New Zealand but according to the regulars we got let off lightly with the temperature dropping only as far as 4 ̊C with a bit of rain thrown in for good measure.  Whichever way you look at it, the highlight was the famous bonfire and it certainly didn't disappoint.  And when that died down we went back to our friend with the AC/DC brazier and talked rubbish until the firewood ran out.

The next morning it seemed like daylight would never come.  Mind you, we were almost at the bottom of the South Island and close to the shortest day of the year.  Daylight finally greeted us with drizzle.  A quick pack up of the camping gear and it was back on the bikes to make our way back north.  The last three legs of the trip (Ida Valley - Christchurch - Wellington - Napier) saw rain all days.  In the end you learn to get comfortable riding in the wet and having confidence in your tires (watching out for the shiny tar seal of course).

So would I recommend something like this?  Definitely.  Two takeaways from the trip -  you can never have enough clothes and choose your bike carefully. Here are a list of some of the things that made the ride just that little more comfortable and convenient....

  1. Yamaha Niken - yes the bike with two front wheels.
  2. Michelin Pilot Road 5 tyres - adding to the additional grip the Niken gives with its two front wheels, these tyres add to the safety.
  3. Krieger luggage - US30 and US10 bags strapped together over top of the camping gear.
  4. Cardo Pactalk helmet bluetooth communications.  Listen to music, phone your friend cos you lost him, listen to Google maps tell you where to go (in the politest way possible)
  5. Quad Lock phone case and mount.  Keeps your phone visible for navigation.
  6. SIDI Canyon boots.  Has to be the best thing to keep the trotters warm and dry in some of the most miserable of riding weather.

A special shout out to Alan and Andy from Yamaha NZ for the great company, semi-intelligent discussions and funny stories - all round, top blokes!  More wood....

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