Monday, 31 October 2016

Hibernating a Motorcycle: Oil Changes

That ain't a cheap oil change, but as expensive as it is,
it's way cheaper than rebuilding a motor.
In a previous life I was an automotive technician and then service manager at a Quaker State shop.  For a few years there I was right up on my lubricants.  That background makes me very conscious of my motorbike fluid habits.   One of my standing rules when I put away a motorcycle for the winter is to change the oil before I do it.

You watch someone like Nick Sanders ride up and down the Americas for tens of thousands of kilometres and you wonder how his Yamaha looked like it had barely been used at the end of it:

Engines are designed to be running.  The very worst thing you could do is start and stop an engine over and over again (like we all do every day).  In the case of Sander's epic rides from Alaska to Argentina and back, while what the Yamaha did was astonishing, the fact that the engine was in good shape shouldn't have been a surprise.  It was barely ever allowed to cool down. 

Oils become acidic and moisture seeps in as things continually heat up and cool down.  Leaving old oil in your engine over the winter isn't doing it any favours.  Swapping out contaminated oil for clean oil before you put it away is a great idea, so your engine isn't soaking in the bad stuff.

Swapping it again in the spring is just a waste of money.  Oil doesn't go bad sitting, but once you're into the heat up cool down cycle again keep an eye on your mileage, and keep up on your oil changes, your engine will appreciate it.

Chemistry is where the big advances are happening nowadays.  Today's oils have astonishing temperature ranges and abilities.  Here are some links on what's going on with lubricants:

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Hibernating a Motorcycle: Tires

Dave Hatch's Motorcycle Experience is doing a series on how to store a motorcycle over the winter (or for any extended period).  The first bit is on how to prepare and look after your tires while the snow flies outside:

So, make sure they are clean and at maximum pressure when you put the bike away, and move the bike every once in a while to prevent the tire from settling on one spot.  It was interesting what Warren Milner, the tire expert, said about what super sticky sport bike tires can do in extreme cold.  It's an issue with all super sticky tires evidently.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Build Your Own Motorcycle Stand

Motorcycle buddy Jeff decided he needed a motorcycle stand for his BMW Airhead cafĂ© racer project. He found some plans online and proceeded to execute that build!

It's a camera taking a photo every five seconds over a weekend of building.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The End is Nigh

I rode in to work this morning in near zero temperatures.  It was sunny but cool.  The ride home was in the mid-single digits and sunny.  Winter gloves handled 8°C with ease, they were streteched a near zero.  Tomorrow might be my last 2 wheeled commute of the season.  I threw the 360Fly on the front for the ride, these are screen grabs of the video:

It's amazing what you can get away with thanks to grip heaters and an extendable windshield.  -5°C might be a bit more than I'm willing to put up with on the ride in to work, but if it's clear I might just steal one more before the snows fly.

There are still some autumn colours hanging on, but the trees are starting to look skeletal.

For these shots the camera was suction cupped near the bottom of the windshield and aimed forward.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Sepang Echoes And A Word To My Newly Found Countryman

My lovely wife convinced me to do the DNA test.  Being very British, the results that came back were a bit surprising.  Genetically speaking I'm the result of the fact that Europeans love to get to know each other intimately.

My people are from Norfolk on the east coast of the UK, so a strong Scandinavian influence was to be expected (damned vikings!), but the rest is interesting.  I had no idea we were part Irish (evidently everyone is), and the trace bits at the bottom are also cool.  Realizing I'm made up of all these different cultures feels good.

I other news, Marc Marquez just won the MotoGP championship in Motegi, Japan.  I started watching MotoGP during Marc's first year in the championship and it was thrilling to watch this astonishing talent blossom even as I was getting acclimatized to motorcycle racing.  It was hard not to become a fan.  I remained a fan up until last year when Marc made a young man's mistake.

If he's fighting for a championship, Marc parrots words of respect. but only because he's going to win it.  When he's out of the running his arrogance comes through, and it isn't pretty.

I find it hard to support a guy who thinks he's more important than the battle itself.  Motorcycle racing is Hemingway-esque in the demands it places on participants.  If you do it wrong it will kill you.  When doing something that potentially lethal well you need more than quick reflexes and arrogance.  The world is full of fast, dead motorcycle riders.  Motogp, being the very pinnacle of motorcycle riding, should present professionals who respect the dangers of the championship they are chasing.  What Marc did last year in Sepang suggests that he thinks himself superior to others who face the same peril.  A rider who thinks he can dictate the outcome of a championship he can't win is not only arrogant, but dangerous.

If you're going to stare death in the face with only your reflexes to save you, you should approach your work with a degree of respect and humility.  I just finished the Australian GP, and watched Marc toss his Honda into the countryside while leading.  He's far from perfect, though still no doubt a once in a generation talent.  I'd like to be a fan again, but not if he's going to disrespect the brave thing these riders are attempting.

Now that I'm 2% Spanish and we're coming up on the anniversary of Sepang, I want to say something to my countryman: 

"Marc, it's not your place to dictate the outcome of a championship for anyone but yourself, and there's something to be said for apologizing.  I want to be a fan, but unless you're going to respect the battle you'll never be more than an ego with quick reflexes.  

One day, as you get older and slower, you'll be tempted to apologize for what happened in 2015, but when someone irrelevant tries to apologize in order to remain relevant it's just another expression of arrogance.  Now that you've got another championship, and as MotoGP heads to Sepang again, it's time to take on another dimension as champion and speak for the championship itself.  Perhaps you can direct other misguided young men away from disrespecting the thing you're all fighting for.  We'd all thank you for it."

Commitment to your craft means more than just making time on the track.
I wonder how a championship feels when you've just spent a year diminishing it.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Week After New Years: Take 2

If it's a seven grand proposition to get over to California and rent a bike to ride the Pacific Coast Highway, how cheaply could I do something else?

As if by magic, this popped up across the road from work this week.  If they're asking between five and six grand, it would be a straight trade for the commuter car I drive to work in the winter. This type of motorcycle transportation system has a cargo carrying capacity of over 3000lbs, so it would comfortably carry a bike or two.  
Tiger to scale
in that van.

The Tiger, a fairly substantial adventure bike, is about 89 inches long, 34 inches wide at the handlebars and 55 inches tall.  The cargo area in this kind of van is 124 inches long, 53 inches wide at the narrowest point of the rear wheel arches and about 53 inches tall.  With the windshield removed, even two tall adventure bikes would fit in the back of this thing with only a bit of handlebar overlap.  Two six hundred pound bikes would barely dent half the load capacity of the van.  It would barely feel a single bike at all.

With the Tiger (and maybe a Super Tenere) loaded in the back, we could make the great escape south on the week after New Years.

It's an all day trip to Knoxville.

If we left on New Year's day we could be in Pigeon Forge on the edge of the Smokey mountains that night.

Monday morning we could hit one of a number of local motorcycle friendly routes.  There are so many choices that other than a freak snow storm, we'd be on excellent riding roads, making miles in January.

Best Western Toni has a sale!
Pigeon Forge is nestled right in the middle of it all and their winter temperatures feel downright spring-like compared to what we have up here - hovering around 9°C on average.  It's cool, but no cooler than riding in the mountains around Phoenix was last New Years.  On warm days we might get right up into the high teens Celsius.  It's a bit of a chance, but the reward would be getting some beautiful winter rides in while the north is under a blanket of snow.

Compared to the Californian coast, you can get fantastic hotel deals down Knoxville way.  The Best Western in Pigeon Forge has a $74 Canadian a night deal on, and it's a 4+ star reviewed place with indoor pools and hot tubs and included breakfast; the perfect launching point for a series of rides.

Lots of pretty roads around Pigeon Forge
Being a regular winter work week for most people, the roads would be empty.  The Tail of the Dragon is only 54 twisty miles down the 321 from Pigeon Forge, and at that time of the year it'll be anything but packed.  The Dragon is just one of many excellent motorcycling roads in the Great Smokey Mountains area.

After exploring the Smokey Mountains from Monday to Thursday, we'd get a good night's sleep and make the drive back back north into the frozen darkness on Friday (giving us a spare day or two in case of weather).  The costs aren't anything like trying to get out to California.  With no airfare or motorcycle rental, the most expensive bits aren't there.  On top of that I'd get to ride a bike I love instead of getting on a rental I'm ambivalent about.

Compared to the seven grand California week, this one comes out to about sixteen hundred bucks depending on how getting my hands on a cargo van goes.  There is more of a chance of weather getting in the way but if it holds out it's a dramatically cheaper way to ride some fantastic roads in the middle of winter.

Maybe I could get Enterprise Rent-a-van to sponsor the trip...

Cost breakdown:
- swapping out the Mazda2 for a van, I think I can about break even there.  I only use the Mazda for the 10 minute commute to work in the winter - the van could easily do the same thing for not much more in gas because the commute is so short.
- gas down and back (assuming 15mpg) ~1500 miles = 100 gallons of gas ~380 litres @ $1 a litre = ~$400Cdn in gas for the van (gas is cheaper in the States).
- Food & toll costs on the commute, say $100 each way: $200US ($250Cdn)
- Hotel for the week (Sunday night to Friday morning) in Pigeon Forge: $411Cdn
- Daily bike gas & food costs: say $100US ($150Cdn) per day, so for Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu it'd be about $600Cdn

All totalled up, that's 2 days of travel and four days on two wheels in Tennessee for about $1600 Canadian dollars.  That's $5400 cheaper than the same amount of time away in California, and with six less airports.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Night Rider

We've already had a couple of frosts up here and there was another one on Thursday night when I had to get over to Erin, a 90km round trip from home.  It was a cool day, but sunny and the fall colours were coming on strong.  I make the monthly trip over to lodge in Erin from September to June, and try to ride whenever I can.  This might be my last time on two wheels for a while.

Waiting out the winter is never easy, and the coming snows tend to urge me onto two wheels even more as the darkness arrives.  The ride over was cool but spectacular: a blood red sunset across some astonishing trees.  I stopped in the hlls of south-west Erin at a horse farm and took a picture.

It was about 8°C (46°F) on the ride over.  The Tiger takes this in stride.  The only part of me that gets cold are my hands, and the hand guards and grip warmers had me covered.

I got back out at about 9:45pm.  The temperature was hovering just above freezing.  I had the fleece zipped up and the leathers on over top.  That combination does a remarkable job of retaining heat and stopping the wind from getting in.

I pulled out onto the empty, streetlighted road and headed into the darkness.  The moon was waxing gibbous and cast long shadows across the road.  Any exposed skin would have been instantly frozen, fortunately I didn't have any.

I stopped in the dark and snapped that picture on the left.  Best I could do with a smartphone.  I want my next smartphone phone to be a camera with some smartphone on it rather than the other way around.

A single car drove by while I was stopped and asked if I was OK, which was nice.  Back on the bike I thundered through the frozen moonlight, weaving my way down empty country roads back home.

When I got in my hands were still working even though I'd only wornn normal leather gloves.  My core temperature was low, but it didn't take long to warm back up.  Next time I'm out in that kind of weather I'll try out the winter gloves.  I'll keep going until the snow flies and the roads are salted.  At that point I'll clean up the Tiger one last time and let it hibernate under a blanket until spring.

Some variations:

A Week After New Years

Norman makes the PCH look pretty magical.
At nearly a thousand bucks a day for this Canadian,
it would have to be.
Strange timing means I've got the week off after New Year's Day this year.  That means flying is a less expensive possibility, so what motorcycling trip might I do with that time?  Norman Reedus did the PCH last year, that'd be nice.  If my son and I were to go, what would that cost?

1)  Drive to Detroit would be a bit of gas, border & hotel money, pack only bike gear and a single change of clothes.  Parking in Detroit would cost about $170 for the week including a night in a hotel (the flight leaves at 6am).

$250 for the first day and night (trip, hotel & parking).  And that's just to stay in Detroit!

2) Flights from Detroit to LAX are going for about $675.  Throw in another $50 to eat bad airport food.
Land in LAX, cab over to EagleRider (10 miles) $30.  EagleRider renting a BMW sport tourer for a week costs over $1400US ($1900 Canadian) if you want decent insurance coverage in the liability driven US.
Figure $300US a day in food, gas and hotels (travelling fairly minimally), and our eight days and nine nights on ground should run us about $2400US ($3250 Canadian).

The flight back is another $574 plus expenses...
Once back it's another four hour slog over the bridge and back into Ontario through potentially lousy winter weather.  Figure in an extra $100 for gas, tolls and eating to get home.
A thousand miles up and down the Pacific Coast Highway
would be a nice way to end the holiday break, but
at seven grand it's a salty trip.

I might have the time free, but this cheap-as-I'll-go trip to California for just seven days (plus one in Detroit) would run to almost seven grand.  It's a nice bike, but the price difference between that and a smaller, less able bike to carry us and our stuff around isn't that much (maybe thirty bucks a day less).  This is assuming $100 a night-ish hotels, so nothing special and nothing near anything good.  Other than the riding there isn't much left to visit anything with either.

Renting a bike is expensive.  Flying is expensive even if it isn't a peak times and even if you drive to Detroit first.  Hotels aren't cheap, and the whole thing jumps up by 32% when I pay for it with the Canadian money I earn.

I guess I won't be doing that the week after New Years.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Stop and take in the moment...

Last year I was stuck behind a large group of cruisers and wondered out loud on the Concours Owners Group what the etiquette is for passing them.  It's hard to pass a big group because of their shear size, and breaking up their formation by having to pull back in during a pass seems rude.  In addition to upsetting several bikers (a word I don't use to describe myself), I got some good advice from motorcyclists who have been doing it for a long time.  The best advice came from a fellow who said that if he comes across a mobile chicane like that he just pulls over has a smoke and ponders things.  He then gets back onto an empty road in a contemplative state of mind.  Why so be in such a rush?

I liked his Zen approach though it isn't in my nature to do it.  The other day on my short commute into work I was riding behind an ancient Muppet in an SUV who was barely doing 40 in a 60 zone.  He wasn't going to work, but he'd elected to hop into his mobile castle and putter down the road in front of as many people as he could.  With a bike your power to weight ratio is stratospheric.  It's (very) easy to make a pass, but rather than feed the speed monster I tried pulling over.  It helped that it was an absolutely stunning October morning with golden sun streaming through ground fog...

I stopped, turned off the bike, and sat on the side of the road for a few minutes soaking it up.  Once you drop the gotta-pass thing the urge quickly fades away.  In the stillness of that sunrise I became aware of what was pushing me.  Part of me was already thinking through all the things I had to do when I got to work and anxiety to get it all done was taking root without me noticing it, hence the urge to blow off traffic.  Your subconscious can be a pain in the ass that way, infecting what was otherwise a beautiful morning ride in to work with an unnecessary sense of urgency.  It's nothing that a moment of reflection can't beat back though.  How often have you reacted to stress or pressure by passing it on to something else?  I transfer moods like this all the time.

I took a couple of more minutes and photographed the sunrise...

Back on the bike I continued in to work, getting there five minutes later than I otherwise would have but in a mellow state of mind.  I actually caught up with the Muppet and his train of frustrated commuters in the next town over, so my five minute sojourn with the rising sun didn't make me any later than I would have been anyway.

This Zen break was easy because nature was putting on a show, but it's a habit I'd like to try and get into.  Nurturing a calmer mindset results in deeper thoughts, and time to ruminate is one of the reasons I love riding a motorcycle so much.  The time to reflect doesn't hurt either.  If I can sense when worldly pressures are infecting my mindset on the bike I'll become a better rider.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

ZG1K: Customization, Inspiration & Aesthetics

Graphical thoughts on the ZG1K customization...

I'm still working through the proportions of a naked Concours.  It isn't a delicate device...

In spite of the colourful nature of the bike, it's a muscular heavyweight.
Inspirations for this build revolve around 80's sport bikes and naked streetfighters.  I grew up in the '80s and have a thing for fully faired race bikes with blocky rear ends.  The big, bulky Concours' tank lends itself to a strong, balanced back end.

A box shaped rear fairing working off and 80's race bike vibe combined with a minimalist cafe racer look

The paint's already coming off the tank.  I need to figure out how to make a rough 3d outline of the rear body work (cardboard, wood, thin metal?) in order to begin getting an accurate sense of how the back end will look.  If I can get handier with 3d editing software I'll 3d print a few various prototypes first (maybe scan it with cardboard panels in place).

The front fairing will be a minimal street-fighter type of thing.  I wanted to go with a bikini fairing, but it's a bit too delicate for the big shoulders of the Concours.  Monkeying around in Photoshop has gotten me this far:

But this is more of a sculpting thing than a pen and paper thing.  I need to make some cardboard outlines and see what feels right in 3d (Close Encounters style).

The Mike Tyson/heavyweight feel of the Concours means I'm thinking more melee fighter than I am lightweight and delicate.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

ZG1K: A Customized Kawasaki Concours

I've stripped down the Concours to the bare bones.  From there I intend to build it back out into a cafe-racer/naked streetfighter.  A barebones ZG1000 Concours looks pretty butch:

A high intensity LED headlight
with built in indicators.
ZG1K Stipped Model  -  Click on it and drag to change views
by timking17
on Sketchfab
The brown seat will sync with
a crimson stripe.  Were money
less of an issue I'd get it custom
upholstered to run the stripe all
the way through.
The back end is going to get tidied up and topped with a cafe style brown leather seat.  I'm also researching LED light systems that will be all but invisible under the seat until they light up.

The front end is going to get a basic/minimalist light cover and a light that has indicators built in for a clean look our front (no indicator storks poking out).  The front fairing and light will be mounted to the forks.

Stripping on the Ducati Monster is
a thing of beauty.
As for paint colours, I'd like to try and take the tank back to metal and then have a crimson stripe running over the minimal front fairing, along the tank and across the minimal rear body work.  An asymmetrical design with a thick centre strip and a thinner stripe off to the right is what I'm currently thinking, though I'll see what works as the bike comes back together.  If the tank is too rough I'll redo it red with a gold stripe that matches the wheels.  Now that I say that, it might be what happens anyway.

I'm going to use the Structure Sensor scans to map out body work in 3d.  I'm also going to make use of a Dremel 3d printer to print out scale replicas of different body configurations.  These are some screen grabs of the 3d scan (which you can see at the top).

The massive twin exhausts might get modified, but right now I'm enjoying the big-guns look they have, so I'll probably be keeping it.  They help visually balance a bike that looks otherwise top heavy with that massive gas tank.

First go at a logo - I think I'm going to have to find the Kawasaki Heavy Industries
logo for this heavyweight streetfighter.