Ever seek­ing ad­ven­ture, Nick Adams took his 1976 Guzzi V-twin with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion on a long dis­tance haul across Canada’s re­mote, rough roads. If gravel and gul­lies weren’t tough enough to han­dle on a heavy­weight tourer – sud­denly the road dis­appe

Real Classic - - What Lies Within - Pho­tos by Nick Adams

Ever seek­ing ad­ven­ture, Nick Adams took his 1976 Guzzi V-twin with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion on a long dis­tance haul across Canada’s re­mote, rough roads. If gravel and gul­lies weren’t tough enough to han­dle on a heavy­weight tourer – sud­denly the road dis­ap­peared al­to­gether…

Af­ter trav­el­ling fifty miles that morn­ing, I didn’t fancy turn­ing around to re­trace my ride back. But flood­wa­ter had washed away the gravel which formed the road bed, leav­ing a me­tre-wide gulch on ei­ther side. Rid­ing across wasn’t pos­si­ble. I looked around and no­ticed that a four-wheeler had made an im­promptu track around the base of the cul­vert, so I parked the bike and took a lit­tle walk. The track dived down a three foot gravel bank, tra­versed the soggy stream bed – mer­ci­fully now with lit­tle more than a trickle – then dived back up a cob­ble bank to the road. Could I do it?

I was pleas­antly sur­prised by how eas­ily the Con­vert dealt with this tricky spot. One of the great ad­van­tages of the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion is that no mat­ter what the cir­cum­stances, you are al­ways in the right gear. If you need more power or speed, just twist the throt­tle. I trick­led down the first bank, care­fully eased across the old creek bed then gunned it up the sec­ond rise, the Con­vert bel­low­ing as the rear tyre scrab­bled for some trac­tion. I made it.

I won’t pre­tend the rest of this sec­tion was par­tic­u­larly easy rid­ing. Once the road di­verged from the river the qual­ity of the road sur­face be­came more con­sis­tent, grad­u­ally mor­ph­ing into a fully-fledged gravel log­ging com­pany ‘haul road’ for the last few miles, but although the big rocks and washouts were a thing of the past, the road sur­face was still ex­tremely loose and slippy. Even­tu­ally I hit the paved road just west of Shin­ing Tree. A cou­ple of deep breaths later and I was off rid­ing the 222 miles to Ka­puskas­ing and my stop for the night. The Con­vert had ac­quired a pleas­ant, dusty coat­ing, but was oth­er­wise un­af­fected.

Most of the cross-coun­try heavy goods traf­fic uses High­way 11 as an al­ter­na­tive to the nu­mer­ous hills along the Lake Su­pe­rior coastal route, so it came as no sur­prise that I shared the road with some mas­sive trucks. Both they and I were head­ing to Nip­igon, where the two roads con­verge at the Lake Su­pe­rior shore. Not that the trucks both­ered me much. I usu­ally had the road to my­self, and any­way, I have al­ways found long dis­tance truck­ers re­mark­ably re­spect­ful of mo­tor­cy­clists.

There isn’t much to keep the mind en­gaged on the first stage of this road to­wards Ka­puskas­ing. The ter­rain is part of an enor­mous post-glacial lakebed, now cov­ered with for­est, punc­tu­ated by a few tiny patches where failed farms are be­ing re­claimed by na­ture. Then the ter­rain changes, cul­mi­nat­ing in a lovely stretch of road with Lake Nip­igon and the Nip­igon River on one side, and the im­pres­sively ver­ti­cal cliffs of the Pi­jitawabik Pal­isades, the es­carp­ment edge of a 1200 mil­lion year old di­a­base sheet. The last time I had seen the pal­isades, 35 years ear­lier, I’d been help­ing to dis­in­ter a burial erod­ing from the river bank – but that, as they say, is an­other story.

On a mod­ern bike there would be lit­tle to oc­cupy the mind: on an old clunker there are al­ways lit­tle things to keep you en­gaged. Did I re­mem­ber to grease the wheel bear­ings when I changed the tyres? Are the brakes feel­ing more spongy than usual? I won­der how the uni­ver­sal joint is far­ing? These lit­tle things can eas­ily grow into ma­jor con­cerns even if noth­ing is wrong.

At the end of a 426 mile day I checked into a mo­tel, then rode into the town to pick up some es­sen­tial sup­plies – more beer. I for­got to put in my ear plugs and sud­denly all my anx­i­eties about the con­di­tion of the bike were con­firmed. Ev­ery­thing was loose and rat­tling. The valve gear was clat­ter­ing might­ily, I could hear the tim­ing chain whirring around, the drive shaft was clunky, the rear springs were squeak­ing, the forks com­plained if I hit a ma­jor bump. My bike was fall­ing apart. Then I put my ear plugs back in and the bike was smooth and serene again. Whew!

With Lake Su­pe­rior a con­stant pres­ence on the right, and high, rocky, forested hills on the left, the ride de­mands more en­durance than tech­ni­cal skill. Fol­low­ing a brief break­fast, I headed south to­wards Sault Ste Marie, where the wa­ters of Lake Su­pe­rior spill out through the St Mary’s Rapids head­ing for Lake Huron. As I left, I could see a cou­ple of well-laden bikes in the dis­tance. Over the next twenty miles I grad­u­ally closed the gap un­til I was match­ing their speed about fifty yards back.

Over the next rise, they sud­denly braked and pulled over to the shoul­der with me close be­hind. We’d all seen and si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­sponded to a rider push­ing his bike along the other side of the road. It didn’t take long to es­tab­lish that the young lad on the Suzuki 650 sin­gle had over­es­ti­mated how far he could travel on the measly 10.5 litres of fuel his tank could hold. I had ex­tra fuel, they didn’t, so as I emp­tied my spare 2.5 litres into his tank – more than enough to get him to the next gas sta­tion – they con­tin­ued on. The young guy was on his first big mo­tor­cy­cle ad­ven­ture, with an­other 300 miles to go. I like to think he’ll re­mem­ber this event fondly, and ren­der as­sis­tance to some­one else in the fu­ture.

The ride to Sault Ste Marie isn’t epic like a Stelvio Pass or the Ice­fields Park­way but it has a grandeur and charm of its own which never fails to make me happy. My anx­i­eties of the pre­vi­ous evening had long since passed as I swung along with the road, ris­ing over treeclad rocky head­lands and swoop­ing down to vast un­in­hab­ited bays, the Con­vert pro­vid­ing a sat­is­fy­ing bel­low from its twin ex­hausts.

A cou­ple of hours later, a long sec­tion of road re­con­struc­tion had brought traf­fic to a halt. Like the ve­hi­cles ahead of me, I switched off to await our turn through the sin­gle open traf­fic lane. I had hardly lifted my face shield when the two rid­ers from ear­lier pulled in be­hind me. Com­pared to the clean and lug­gage-co­or­di­nated Yamaha Su­per Ténéré that pulled along­side, my Con­vert was a sorry sight with dust-en­crusted carbs and

bug-splat­tered wind­screen, yet I could tell the rider was a bit sur­prised to see that I’d ar­rived be­fore them. ‘ That thing moves right along,’ he said. The rest of the day was a hot and tir­ing slog along the part of the Trans-Canada that par­al­lels the Lake Huron shore. I checked back in to my mo­tel at the end of a 517 mile day. Over the last few miles I’d no­ticed that the bike was start­ing to run a lit­tle roughly and wasn’t too keen to idle. So once again I cracked a beer, un­rolled my toolkit, and set­tled down to check over the bike.

It doesn’t seem to mat­ter how con­sci­en­tious you are in pack­ing tools, spares, tape, bits of mis­cel­la­neous gear and zip ties, there seems to be a uni­ver­sal law for mo­tor­cy­cle trips that what­ever you’ve over­looked or for­got­ten is what you need most. My toolkit con­tained a whole range of met­ric span­ners care­fully sized to suit the bike. I had a spare clutch ca­ble – I’ve no idea why be­cause the Con­vert is per­fectly ride­able with­out ever us­ing the clutch – I had bulbs,

allen keys, pli­ers, screw­drivers of as­sorted types, tyre irons, spare tube and patches. I thought I had ev­ery­thing. But when I de­cided that I should clean and gap the points, I soon found that the one thing miss­ing was the small allen key I needed to re­move the points cover. Typ­i­cal. A wise per­son would have spent a rest­ful night, waited un­til the shops were open, bought the cor­rect allen key, done the points and smoothly rid­den away. Ap­par­ently I’m not a wise per­son. I got up with the birds, hit the high­way and put up with a burp­ing, back­fir­ing and stut­ter­ing bike un­til I got to the next ma­jor town 100 miles fur­ther south.

It turns out that ‘Cana­dian Tire’ (a bit like Hal­fords) doesn’t sell sin­gle allen keys, so I had to buy a full set. While I was there I threw a cou­ple of NGK BPR7ES spark plugs in my bas­ket for good mea­sure.

Once again, the sim­ple el­e­gant de­sign of the Moto Guzzi made my life easy. Although the points cover lies be­neath the fuel tank, the tank is only held on by a cou­ple of hooks at the front and a rub­ber band at the back. I didn’t even need to dis­con­nect the fuel lines. I

just un­hooked the rub­ber band, pulled the tank up and back a bit, then jammed my folded sleep­ing pad un­der­neath to hold it up. A cou­ple of sec­onds with the allen key and the points cover was in my hand. A cou­ple of min­utes with some emery pa­per and the points were clean­ish and gapped by eye. With the new plugs in­stalled and ev­ery­thing back in its proper place, the bike was soon run­ning prop­erly again and I was back on the road.

The last cou­ple of hun­dred miles were along roads I have rid­den on just about ev­ery bike I own. Pass­ing through ‘cot­tage coun­try’, they weave around nu­mer­ous lakes and hills. While they’re not quite the iso­lated roads I favour, they are some of the most en­ter­tain­ing rid­ing roads in the prov­ince. You might think that with no real gear­box to play with, the Con­vert would be a bit dull. Far from it.

It’s dif­fer­ent, cer­tainly, but ev­ery bit as en­gag­ing. In­stead of the nar­row power band in each gear on a ’nor­mal’ bike, the Con­vert seems to have one great, big, elas­tic gear that’s al­ways right. Want to accelerate hard through a bend? Just open the throt­tle. The

revs will rise and the bike surges for­ward un­til you ease off and ev­ery­thing calms down again. Want to get past that car? Twist the grip – no fish­ing for the right gear nec­es­sary – just smooth ef­fec­tive for­ward progress, ac­com­pa­nied by a sat­is­fy­ing roar. One of my lit­tle ju­ve­nile plea­sures is ac­cel­er­at­ing hard from a light while other bike rid­ers are watch­ing, know­ing that they will be lis­ten­ing for the gear changes which never come.

If the El­do­rado’s gear­box hadn’t de­cided to break, I prob­a­bly would have been rid­ing it in­stead. It is deeply sat­is­fy­ing, tough as nails, eats miles for break­fast and has mas­sive charisma that makes me happy even when there’s no­body but me to be aware of it. In the end though, I’m glad I took the Con­vert. It has given me a proper op­por­tu­nity to ap­pre­ci­ate its many strengths. Like its older sis­ter, the Con­vert is an easy bike on which to ride lengthy days. It’s ro­bust enough to be un­af­fected by a lit­tle un­paved ac­tion, and is al­most laugh­ably sim­ple to main­tain on the road. It may be an odd­ity, even for Moto Guzzi – a com­pany not noted for or­di­nary ma­chin­ery – but it is un­ques­tion­ably a RealU­suableClas­sic and I’ve found I like rid­ing it. A lot.

Nor­mally, a cul­vert is cov­ered by enough ag­gre­gate to make a sort-of road Dust and grit are abra­sive. It pays to check the con­di­tion of both pads and brake discs In this case, the road had washed away, mak­ing it im­pass­able by mo­tor­cy­cle. Even by a Guzzi! All the rider needs to know Luck­ily, a lit­tle way away a 4x4 had made a new road, and the Guzzi han­dled that fine

The dust of a long road coats ev­ery­thing. Ob­serve how Guzzi pro­vide a stubby footrest above the foot­board to make op­er­at­ing the brake pedal eas­ier and, dis­play­ing some in­tel­li­gence, Guzzi tucked the mas­ter cylin­der away with some of the electrics

To the left is the fuel tap, to the right a cylin­der head. In be­tween them lives the dis­trib­u­tor To gain ac­cess, the fuel tank needs to be shifted, and then rested on a sleep­ing mat To make it work bet­ter, clean and gap the con­tacts, re­place ev­ery­thing

To re­move the cap, an allen key is re­quired. To ac­quire an allen key, a chap needs to buy a whole set. Of course The key to Con­vert de­light is the torque con­verter, which lives be­tween the en­gine and the gear­box The con­verter has its own oil sup­ply A cooler does its best to keep the Con­vert’s con­verter oil happy…

Be­low: Des­ti­na­tions like these make for a truly happy rider. Great lakes in­deed

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