Sunday, 29 March 2015

How to Pick a Project Bike

I'm still wallowing in the sense of satisfaction from taking an old, field-found Concours and putting it back on the road again.  With a road-ready bike in the garage I'm looking for another project bike.  I'm not short on choices, a quick look online revealed a wide variety of 'project' bikes; apparently a lot of people start them and don't finish them.  You can pick up failed projects that run the gamut from boxes of bits to a machine that just needs a bit of TLC.  I'd think you have to feel like a real burk if you bought a bike, dismantled it and then walked away from the mess you made, but people do it.  I'm left wondering if some people start projects just to waste time rather than aiming for a finished product.

Knowing which bike to pick is a big part of selecting a workable project.  The Concours was owned by an older fellow who knew what he was doing and fully intended to ride the bike again.  It wasn't stored properly or used, but the attention paid to it was knowledgeable, making it a good choice for a project.  I was able to hear it running and even rode it home, so I knew what I was getting into.  

The Connie is also a popular bike with a huge online community.  The ZG1000 Concours I have was in production from 1994 up until 2006 and '86 to '93 in a previous, similar generation.  A lengthy production run means lots of parts out there.  I had no trouble finding both new and used parts for it and getting advice was as easy as logging into the Concours Owners Group or referring to the easily found shop manual.

As a starting project the Concours was a good choice.  For my second project I'm looking for a bit more of a challenge.  Just north of me a 1989 Suzuki DR600 Djebel came up for sale, menacingly suggested as a project bike.

The DR600 evolved into the DR650 in 1990.  DR650s are still in production today, but the DR600 was quite a different machine.  After doing some digging on the interwebs I discovered that finding parts for it might be a real problem (one Suzuki dealer said there was no such bike).  There is no shop manual available from any of the usual publishers and the only thing I could find that was close was a photocopied PDF of a 1985 model from a guy in Australia.  The bike was available in continental Europe and Canada, but not the UK or the US, so I'm looking at a long out of production bike that was never sold in the largest market in the world.  This didn't stop me from going up to look at it though.

The DR600 is a huge trailee machine.  The young owner had the ownership, but it was still in the previous owner's name in spite of the bike being in his possession for a couple of years; the project had obviously gone stale.  The amount of rust on fasteners suggested that the bike had been left in the weather for at least some of the time.  It won't run, rust in the tank and fuel system was the diagnosis.  Aftermarket tanks are pretty easy to find for off road bikes (and look very Mondo Enduro), but there are none specifically for the DR600.  A DR650 tank might fit... might.

A non-running machine means you're missing a chance to get a sense of the internal workings.  You're probably walking into a complete engine rebuild if the bike has had rust force fed through it during two years of failed diagnostics.  An unplugged speedo cable and loose, corroded wires also raise questions around the accuracy of the mileage as well as the potential for annoying electrical issues.

I'm looking for a challenge, but the Djebel (an Arabic mountain!) is one I'm too cautious to climb.  If I'm a decade in and have wrenched a lot of bikes, I might have taken a swing at it, but not when the asking price is similar to a ten years newer, running KLR650.  I still had to fight my mechanical sympathy which was tugging at me to take the bike home and make it whole again.

So, I'm still looking for another project bike.  An '81 Honda CB400 came up nearby for half the price of the Suzuki.  Also not running, but a much more popular machine that isn't a problem for parts availability or service manuals.  Stored inside, it looks like a good candidate for my first rebuild.  It also looks like a good choice for a more complicated customization.  A CB400 Scrambler would be a sensible evolutionary step in bike builds for me.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sense of Satisfaction and some more Concours 3d models

It was a tough week with an empty garage, but the Connie passed safety and it's now licensed and ready to put on some miles, I just have to wait for the snow to stop.  The ride back from shop was -8°C (minus thirteen with the windchill, minus a million when you're riding in it).  With any luck we can get some above zero temperatures soon and I can finally take the big 'un for a long ride.

It was gratifying to have a pro look over the bike and judge it well put together.  Considering all the work I've done on it, it feels like a real validation.

Since I'm with-bike again, I took another run at 3d modelling it...

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Micromorts & Motorcycling

I'm watching Morgan Freeman's Through The Wormhole again.  This particular show is all about whether or not luck exists.  In the episode they introduce the concept of micromorts - a unit of measurement based on chance, in this case a one in a million chance of instant death.  Using statistics, the micromort allows you to assess the risk involved in various activities based on your chances of a fatality.

Micromorts: assessing risk by statistical comparison
You've got to wonder what 'driving is safer' means from an
environmental perspective.
Needless to say, motorcycling is up there.   Compared to other forms of transport shown, you earn more micromorts motorcycling than just about anything else.  Of course, you have to remember that being alive costs you micromorts each day (and more each day you get older).  Sedentary activity?  Smoking?  Drinking?  They all get you.  

A twenty a day smoker generates the same micromorts as a motorcyclist who rides 100 miles.  Every 28 months you live with a smoker earns you the same micromorts as that 100 miles on a motorbike.  Next time a smoker is telling you how dangerous motorcycling is, you can hit 'em with some micromortization (and maybe point out that your motorcycling doesn't kill everyone around you quicker either).

When you get into extreme sports the micromort count skyrockets.  Ever felt the urge to climb Everest?  That'll cost you about 40,000 micromorts, or 266,666 miles on a motorbike.  Of course you'd spend a couple of weeks climbing a mountain or years on two wheels racking up a quarter of a million miles.  Funny how one thing is considered brave and noble and the other reckless.  Of course, riding a bike also uses less fossil fuel to move people around, while climbing Everest creates an environmental disaster.

One of the hardest things to wrap your head around with micromorts is how they change over time.  As a baby you're small and weak and much closer to death.  Through your middle years you're stable and as far from death as you'll ever statistically get, but as an older person you face death more and more each  year.  Considering that, you have to wonder why more older people don't get into biking.  Just waking up the in morning in your sixties nets you more micromorts than a hundred miles on a bike.  If you're facing that long good night anyway, do not keep trying to turn away from the inevitable hoping to go gently.

The point of us being here isn't to be here for as long as possible.  Motorcycling, more than anything else, will remind you of that every moment you're in the saddle.  There are some things than cannot be reached without risk, and they are usually the best things.  If I'm going to rack up micromorts anyway, I'd rather be doing it on a motorbike.

Some micromort links:
understanding micromorts
A lesson in risk taking
Extreme sports, risk and micromorts
Understanding Uncertainty: Survival

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Mostly Ironhead 3d Harley Davidson Models

I was back at Mostly Ironheads this afternoon to drop off some paperwork and took a few 3d models.  I didn't have a chance to set pieces up in the middle of some open space, so these are a bit spotty, but they give an idea of what kind of detail you could get with a more careful modelling.

1934 Flat Head twin Model by tking on Sketchfab

Mostly Ironheads Website

Mostly Ironheads on Facebook

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mostly Ironheads

The Connie is off getting safetied, and the Ninja has found a new home.  I'm bikeless!
One of the things you learn about motorcycle culture is that it tends to exist underground, out of sight.  For example, this week I discovered that there is a bike shop in the small town that I've lived in for five years.  I had no idea that down the back of the industrial mall behind the country market is a specialist motorbike shop.  This reminded me of our trip to Old Vintage Cranks a couple of summers ago.

I'd contacted the owner, Lloyd, over the phone during the week about getting the Concours safetied.  He doesn't usually work with 'metric bikes', but he was willing to look after me.  Mostly Ironheads is a full service shop that, in addition to offering everything you need to maintain your bike, also offers you some genuine historical motorcycling perspective.  While chatting with Lloyd he showed me a 1934 Harley Flathead engine that he was in the process of rebuilding.  In the front of the shop you'll also find a collection of customized Harleys from various decades.  I'm going to bring the 3d-scanner when I return for the Connie next week and get some models of this classic American iron.

It's convenient to wander around department store styled dealerships and bike shops, but it isn't all that interesting beyond what you're shopping for.  Places like Mostly Ironheads run at a different speed.  The proprietors are always happy to spend some time chatting with you and the chances of seeing something genuine and learning something about motorbiking are much higher.

If you're travelling through Elora, Ontario on two wheels (and many people do to have lunch by the river in the summer), be sure to pop down behind Dar's Country Market to Mostly Ironheads and have a look at a hidden piece of Ontario motorcycle culture.

Mostly Ironheads Website

Mostly Ironheads on Facebook

3d models of some historical Harleys

Monday, 16 March 2015

Tragic Emptiness, New Possibilities

...and then there was one.
The Ninja was gone in six days, sold the first weekend I had it up for sale.  If you're looking to move your bike, prep it for spring and wait for the temperatures to promise spring, you'll have a quick sale.

I was asking $3900, but figured it would need some work done to safety, so I had a $500 cushion in there.  It went for $3200 as is, no extra cost on my part.  I'm happy with that, I bought it for $3500 safetied two years ago and put four thousand miles on it.

I've spent the last couple of days putting time into the Concours, getting it ready for launch...

I need to put some miles on this bike so I can begin believing that I can trust it.  I took it around the block today to warm up the final drive before changing out the fluid - that's the last fluid change on the bike, everything is new and synthetic now.

Around the block to warm up the final drive oil, and now it's changed with synthetic.  First time in that new jacket and
helmet too.  Both feel like quality compared to the bargain basement stuff I started with.
I'm still wandering around online looking at a very different second bike.  The KLX250 is on my short list now after seeing that one with a big bore kit.  We did our bike course on Yamaha 250s and I loved how light and flickable they were.  Having a small enduro would be the night and day difference I'd be looking for in having two bikes, not to mention it'd be very cheap to run.  If I had five grand laying about, I'd chuck it at a new one.

I suspect the Concours will need more TLC than the Ninja did, but if it turns out to be pretty bullet proof, a second bike with character could be this interesting '70s Yamaha.  I'd be able to get my scrambler vibe on with that!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Emotionally Fraught Vehicle Sales

The last time I was this emotional about selling a vehicle was when I sold the last car I ever owned as a single guy.  That Mercury Capri 5.0, 5 speed was a monster, the Millenium Falcon of cars.  It was the kind of thing that you could drive from Toronto to Montreal in 2 hours and 57 minutes!  Everything since that car has been a compromise, an appliance.

Seventeen years after that Capri was sold I found myself looking at a flat black 2007 Kawasaki Ninja in a cold garage in Fergus.  I didn't have my license yet, but I went for it.  It was the first machine I'd owned in almost two decades that was a thrill rather than a necessity.  It was the first vehicle I'd owned in years that I took pictures of.

I've owned the Ninja for two seasons.  I've commuted on it, gone on long rides on it and learned how to ride with it.  On one of my first rides I realized it was able to do more for me than any car I've ever owned, maybe any car I would ever own; it made me fall in love with motorcycling.

Bikes tend to provoke a more emotional relationship no matter what the machine.  The two of you spend a lot of time exposed to the dangers of the road together.  The bike's agility and power can get you out of any number of tricky situations when the distracted people in cages don't see you.  Bikes reward competence with a wonderful feeling of empowerment.  I enjoy the exclusivity of biking as well, not everyone should do it.  The Ninja never failed to reward me for my efforts.

I went with the Ninja because it wasn't tiny so I wouldn't find it weak after getting the hang of riding.  That worked well, I'm not selling it now because it lacks in power, I'm just looking to expand my types of riding after having done the sport bike thing.  Since my son has taken to riding with me, a bike better suited to two up riding is what I'm transitioning to.  Happily, I'm as smitten with the Concours as I was with the Ninja, but that doesn't make selling it any easier.

The Ninja's 649cc engine was remarkably cheap to insure for a new rider and was phenomenally efficient, often getting more than 60mpg.  The bike has been a joy to operate, always dependable, always willing to teach me more as I got better.

I love riding, it's a feeling of freedom like no other.  As a means of centering myself, motorbikes are a Zen mechanism that put you in the moment like no other machine (other than perhaps racing).  I'll miss the Ninja, but selling it means I can diversify my biking.  The Concours will let me get some miles under my belt while still offering an athletic ride.  With the cash on hand from the Ninja I'll be looking at a dual sport and getting a bit dirtier on two wheels.

BTW:  why $3900?  Because this!

After five people contacted me, the 3rd people to see the bike made an offer and I accepted.  The Ninja is sold within a week.  Now to consider how to expand my biking options...

Dual sport thoughts...

DR350?   I could get my Mondo on!

Here's an interesting option: A Kawasaki KLX250 with a big bore kit up to 330cc.  Very light, stronger motor close to the Suzuki above in terms of power to weight ratio...

Saturday, 7 March 2015

3d modelling madness

I got a Structure 3d scanner this week at work. We're using it there for all sorts of educational activities, but I find myself painting the various Kawasaki products in my garage.

This thing costs about $350 bucks and straps on to an ipad.  You walk around your target 'painting' it on the ipad screen (it looks like you're covering it in clay) and then you're done.  Any of these motorcycle models took about a minute of walking around the bike...

It didn't take me long to get some remarkably detailed images of the Concours...

Because it's so easy to paint an object and create a 3d model out of it, you tend to try all sorts of angles.

The scanner will also take a swing at rooms, though I'm not so good with them yet.  This is an image of the garage.  The Ninja is on the left, the Concours is further in on the right.

The file generated is basically a list of vertices connected by lines.  The sensor measures distances and constructs a 3d mesh out of them.  The result is a three dimensional image.

How could something like this be used?

You could scan a fairing or other part, get accurate geometry out of it and then modify it digitally before printing out a replacement.

I think I'm about five years away from being able to 3d print my own digitally modelled custom fairings for any bike.  The hold up right now is a 3d printer big enough to manage large prints.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

There Are These People Called 'Hipsters'

Hipsters with their coiffed hair and well tended beards (even the women)
ride their Scramblers to interesting places
I've been reading the somewhat baffled traditional motorcycle media's reviews of the new Ducati Scrambler. With few exceptions these articles are being written by Baby Boomers who find the idea of "hipsters' to be very mock-worthy. That Ducati is aiming the Scrambler at a younger audience really seems to get up the nose of Boomers, who are used to everything being about them.

Being a Generation Xer I'm skeptical of any kind of social organization and assume nothing is ever about me, but I also find that I have more culturally in common with other people of my generation than I do with any other social distinction (race, class, education, religion, politics, citizenship...). When living in Japan the GenXers we met had so many shared experiences with us that we just fell in together; the times in which you find yourself define you. If you're looking for a review of social organization by birth cohort (generation), then this piece by The Social Librarian will catch you up. See if it doesn't do a decent job of describing your people.

I'm not sure why people can't treat generational differences in the same way they treat cultural differences. You'd be a big jerk if you decided to travel around the world and spent all your time talking about how every other culture is stupid compared to yours, yet people don't seem to hesitate when doing that about other generations. That Baby Boomers, themselves once torn apart in the media because of their newness, are now having a go at hipsters shows just how bad their memories are getting as they age.

At 3:16 you get a good look at how the media
inflamed this situation rather than reporting it
accurately. You'd think Boomers would remember...

As a bald forty something who can't grow a nice beard, I still find that I enjoy hipster bike media even though I could never pull off the look...

If Hipsters make beautiful films and love riding,
then I think I'm a fan...

According to the urban dictionary, hipsters "value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter." What's not to like about that?  Unless you're a cranky, old, conservative, Boomer motorcyclist who thinks that the pinnacle of motorcycle evolution is a Harley Fat Boy, you'd have to think it delightful.

Beards, hair product & old bikes...
Hipsters are one of the primary movers of the café racer resurgence. They enjoy looking back before the neo-liberal globalization that Boomers have brought us, I can get into that too.

Given a choice between hanging out with a bunch of Harley Boomers at a Tim Hortons or a group of Hipsters at an artisanal beer bar/gastro-pub, I know where I'd head.

I'm left thinking maybe motorcycle magazines need to diversify their writers instead of hiring all the guys they went to high school with in 1970. Maybe then anyone other than a Boomer might get a fair shake in print. In the meantime, go Ducati, go!  A successful Scrambler means all those traditional, conservative motorcycle magazines will have to update their staff (maybe even hire someone born after 1965!), or face irrelevance.

The world moves on. Enjoy hipsters while they're here, soon enough they'll grow up and sell out like everyone else has (some first-class GenX skepticism there, eh?).

The desperate attempt to pry motorcycles from the well manicured hands of the hipster is ongoing...