Tuesday, 17 December 2019

The Great Escape

This time of year always feels like Groundhog Day - go to  work, go to sleep, wake up, do it again.  It becomes so repetitive that it leaks into your mind, filling your thoughts so there is little room for anything else.  This year it's amplified by the negativity surrounding my work.  All that combined with no riding for dark months on end and it's hard not to get jammed.

If I time it right I can sneak out of Ontario on an above zero, dry road day.  You can still find double digital daily highs in Cincinatti and south.  A plugged in electric kit bonzai ride to Cinci and I'm out of the snowbelt.  From there it's a less ragged ride south to New Orleans.  From Cinci I'd angle over to Memphis and follow the Mississipi down to the Big Easy...





After reading books like Todd Blubaugh's Too Far Gone and watching Austin Vince Mondo Enduro the planet, I've often wondered what it would be like to get lost on the road.  Once out of the snowbelt, I'd be in no rush to be somewhere.  Without that very Western time fixation, I wouldn't have to get wound up over deadlines.

If I'm not fixated on a destination the daily goals might not be that linear.  With local knowledge I'd hope to find things off the beaten path as I meander...





Off the top of my head, I'd leave New Orleans along the Gulf, visit Austin and then ride the Twisted Sisters in Texas Hill Country.  Austin's also the home of the only North American MotoGP race, so if I timed my return with the race, I could be passing back through Austin on the way home in early April and catch Marc and the rest of the aliens doing their thing.  The goal on the way south would be to get familiar with Austin's weirdness for the return stop.

After wandering Texas I'd take a run up to the Very Large Array in New Mexico and do my best Jodi Foster immitation.  New Mexico and Arizona have a pile of strange sites to see, so the wandering would get intense.  Norman Reedus did a Ride episode in New Mexico that does a good job of showing what's on hand out there.

Even that far south the mountains can also catch you out with northern temperatures as we found out a couple of years ago in the Superstition Mountains just outside of Phoenix in early January, so not rushing and timing your rides is important when at altitude.  There are pile of old western towns and ruins in the US South West, along with some astonishing pieces of engineering.  Meandering from photo opportunity to photo opportunity would be a nice way to ease into this slow motion ride.

Tuscon is home of the Aeroplane Boneyard where thousands of retired air force planes sit in the desert.   A wander around there at sunset would be a glorious thing.  I've done the Phoenix area a couple of times and travelled from the north end of Arizona from Las Vegas, but haven't travelled as far south as Tuscon.  From there I'd head across to Yuma, another famous western US location, before diving south into the Baja Penninsula.  A desert riding tour would be a pretty cool way of seeing Baja.

Mexico is a whole other world.  Most riding-the-Americas types blitz through it looking for a fast route south,but Mexico (with a final lunge into Belize) is where I'd wrap up this great escape from the never ending Canadian winter.  Some crystal caves, Mesoamerican pyramids and Belize beaches during the deep freeze and then working my way back up to Austin for early April...


Seeing the Ozarks and the Tail of the Dragon during the weeks after the race would be a nice way to wind up this great escape, getting back to the frozen north just as it's not frozen anymore.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Sturgill Simpson's Sound & Fury

I came across Sturgill Simpson's Sound & Fury on Netflex last month and I'm hooked!  I've been an anime fan since discovering Star Blazers in the early '80s, and I'm always on the lookout for the good stuff.  That anime fandom was a motivator in moving to Japan for a couple of years at the end of the 20th Century.  While there I did me some kendo and got pretty handy with the old katana, so I have a soft spot for samurai too.

The first time I watched Sound & Fury I was swept away by the cinemtic quality of the thing and quickly became a fan of the musician, though I hadn't heard of him before.  I especially enjoyed the disonance of a country music singer with a decidedly American sound being mixed with Japanese animation:



If you think the muscle car samurai is a cool opening, when she suddenly turns into a motorcycle wielding samurai with robot support it moves to a whole new level.  Just when you think vengence shall be hers everyone is suddenly line dancing - you won't get bored watching this unfold.  It's a visually stunning multimedia extravaganza that really pushes boundaries while offering a great way into a unique musical style that delivers intelligent and nuanced lyrics.  I'm not a particularly musical person, but this visual tour de force was right up my alley and encouraged me to engage with the songs.

One frustrating part of this is that Netflix seems particularly stingy with the art marketing of this project.  After looking for wallpapers online for the laptop, I gave up and made some of my own.  This is purely a work of fandom for this project.  I sincerely hope they come out with another visual album like this, it's my kind of music.

In the meantime, if you're a fan of the anime, these might satisfy the wallpaper itch for your digital device:












Saturday, 7 December 2019

Fireblade Petcock

I think I've finally gotten the fuel system on the scuppered Fireblade sorted.  The last problem (and probably what caused all the other carb and engine issues) was a leaking petcock.  I tried to take apart the existing one, but I should have listened to the Chilton manual and just replaced it in the first place.  The new one (40 bucks on Amazon) seems a quality thing.

The petcock in the tank was pretty mucky, and was leaking even when turned off.  If it was pouring gas into the carbs all the time, even when parked for long periods, it must have filled up the carb bowls and spilled over into the intake manifold and eventually found its way into the engine oil, which would explain the seven litres of what looked like muddy water that came out of the oil drain plug.

The new petcock looks like a more finished thing than what was on it.  Based on the questionable mechanics on the rest of the bike, I'm guessing this was just something that fit rather than the right spec part.  The one on the top is the new one and the bottom one was what was on the bike.  It seems odd that Honda wouldn't actually tell you what the petcock is doing by writing the position on the thing.  

The old one also was also lacking the fuel filter, and the new one with the filter on it wouldn't fit throught a tube stuck up in the tank hole.  I removed the old o-ring and managed to free up the tube with some WD40 and slide it out.  Like everything else I've found in the fuel system, it was a pretty mucky thing.  With those weird bits now out and the tank cleaned, that's the whole fuel system sorted, so hopefully it'll run like it should when I finally get the tank back on.

The goal now is to wait for a break in the weather (we've been in the double digital negative temperatures with a fair bit of snow), and see if I can put the tank back on and fire it all up.  It's supposed to be 6°C and raining on Monday, so that'll clear it up and maybe give me a chance to test the tank/petcock on the bike.

As it is, the new petcock is leak free on the tank (I just held it up and tipped it over a basin, but no fuel leaked), so that's a result!  The problems with this non-runner when I got it had me focusing on the fuel system to the exclusion of all else.  I'm hoping that after a carb rebuild and the various other fuel system nick nacks I've sorted, that's all that's needed, but you never know.

With any luck I'll actually get to ride the thing up and down the driveway later this week and find out what else it might need.  If it's sorted, I can focus on winter maintenance on the Tiger and do the LED turn signals I've got for both bikes next.  Come spring time I'll ride it over to my local motorbike shop, Mostly Ironheads, and have them do a safety on it and then get it sorted for the road.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

2020 Moto Wishlist

Next season is a long, cold winter away, but I'm already daydreaming about what might be...



TomTom Rider 550 Moto-GPS:  I've always made do with my phone, but Google Maps is kinda crap when it comes to navigating on a bike.  Whenever you reach a way point it wants input, which isn't easy when you're flying through the air at 60mph with gloves on.  The TomTom not only is glove friendly, but the software is moto-specific, so no pointless inputs.  It even has a twisty-roads function!  $370CAN

A New Roof: I'm partial to Roof Helmets. To date I've owned a first generation Desmo and a Boxxer. The Boxxer is a simple thing and I miss the plush, quieter and more substantial Desmo I had before. Roof has actually come out with a new Desmo, the RO32, and I'm partial to the new flat dark blue lid they've just done. Roofs are hard to find in North America, but Chromeburner has the new lid on for about $500CAN.







Racing Kit!  A one piece racing suit for the other thing below.  Now that I'm with sports bike, perhaps I could take it out to track days.  To do that I'd need the proper racing kit.  To get the right spec helmet, boots, gloves and racing suit, I'm at about $2200.  Fortnine has the bits I'd need.








A long time ago I did a car performance driving school at Shannonville Race Track and really enjoyed it.  Taking the Fireblade out on track would be a brilliant way to get to know this athletic machine.  Riderschoice.ca has track days.  I just need to get the bike sorted and have the kit necessary to do the business.
Starting at about $170.





Of course, if you're doing track days and need to prep a bike for the track, you need to drain coolant and all sorts of other stuff.  What you really need is a way to get it there.  The new Transit Connect is super fuel efficient for a van and would carry my stuff and people when needed.  About $37k.




Van's got a tow hitch, so trailer, obviously...  $1600 at Canadian tire for this one.  Maybe trailers don't matter, but I'd like to colour match this one to the van.  With that and a fitted cover, it could take one or two bikes to wherever the snow ends in the winter and trackdays in the summer.




BIKE WISHLIST:

A next level off-roader.  I've done a few rounds of off-road training and dig the experience.  I'd like to race enduro and need something dependable and big enough to carry me.  There was a Suzuki DR650 I looked at in the summer for a very reasonable $4000.  It was five years old but basically brand new due to some back luck by its owner.  I wish I could go back in time, get that bike, sort it out for enduro racing and then do it!



Track-day bike:  I've already got this one underway with the Fireblade project.  Sorting out the CBR900rr in the garage and then making it track-day ready would be brilliant.  The real block to entry is the cost of racing kit and the ability to transport the bike to the track.  I think I'm some finishing up and detail work away from putting the Honda back on the road in the spring.




Top Speed Machine:  I've always been partial to the Suzuki Hayabusa, and it would let me do a bucket list thing (200mph on a motorcycle) with only a few modifications.  To stretch the bucket list wish, I'd take it out to speed week in Bonneville and do 200mph on the salt.  If I wanted a leg up on this, someone has a modified turbo Hayabusa in Windsor.





A 2-up Touring specialist:  The Tiger will do 2-up work, but it isn't ideal for it.  A bike that's a 2-up specialist would be the ideal tool for the job.  Out of all the big cruiser/touring bikes out there, I think the Goldwing is the best.  I've ridden a friend's.  It's surprisingly athletic, even with 2 people on it.  Touring bikes don't come cheap - the 'Wing is a $30k thing.




Anime Dream Machine:  The Kawasaki Z1000 has long been a favourite and its Sugomi designed look is pure anime awesomeness.  I've got to admit that the Fireblade project sitting in my garage scratches many of the same itches though.  There's an orange Z1000 in Quebec going for about $10k.  I think the Fireblade might have scratched this itch...














Sunday, 1 December 2019

Last Light of the Sun


Tuesday, November 26:  I got outside after work and noted that the weather didn't hurt.  Could this be a chance for a final ride before the icy grip of old man winter chokes the life out of my riding season?

On our way home I saw a determined rider on a Harley with scarves tied around his face and that tipped it.  It took me about 10 minutes to thermal up (this opportunity was still only a 5°C one) and wheel the Tiger out from under its blanket.

The 16 year old Triumph started at the touch of the button, though the battery didn't sound happy after sitting in freezing temperatures for a month.  As the bike warmed up I made sure no skin was showing and off I went.



I just did a 30km run down to the Westmontrose Covered Bridge and then back to Elora, but the chance to fly again before the winter closes in was priceless.  There is nothing better than an unexpected ride when you think you're months away from being out in the wind again.

A brief stop at the church in Westmontrose for some thematically relevent early November sunset shots in the graveyard before riding back upstream.  I pulled into the gas station in Elora and was surprised to see four other bikers filling up before the long cold resumes.

The Tiger is now parked up with a full tank of gas, ready to slumber once again under its blanket until the distant spring approaches...



Sunday, 24 November 2019

'98 Fireblade Winter Project: Wiring & Petcocks

With the carbs sorted I'm chasing down anything else that could have caused the fuel leak into the engine on the Fireblade.  Yesterday I had the petcock out of the gas tank again and tested it over a catch basin.  Fuel flows fine when it's on, but it continues to drip when it's supposed to be closed, so a new petcock is in order.  Fortunately they seem to be a regularly replaced maintenance item because you can buy them on Amazon for not much money.

The neutral light wasn't working, so I got some LED replacements - they're super bright.  The wiring to the neutral sensor was stripped down by the drive sprocket, so I cleaned it up, reattached it and taped it up.  Voila, working neutral light again.

There were also a set of wires coming out of the drive sprocket housing that look like they go to a speed sensor which were resting on the exhaust pipe and had melted.  These too got sorted and re-wrapped.  I'm also going to fasten that loom so that it can't touch the exhaust again.

There are still lots of little details to sort, but the Honda is coming together nicely.  I'll aim to have it safetied in the spring and then run it for a few months and see if having a second bike in the garage is worth hanging on to, or it might just be sold on to fund the next project.  In the meantime, I'm looking forward to running my first true sport bike.





Sunday, 17 November 2019

CBR900rr Aerospace Motorcycling

With the carbs sorted and the oil changed, the Fireblade sounds like the machine it is (ie: fantastic!).  On the to-do list now is chasing down some wiring issues and shaking down the rest of the bike because a monkey was working on it before and I don't trust his choices.

In working in and around the Fireblade, it's the little differences that add up to a bike 50+ kilos lighter than the Tiger and over 100 (!) kilos lighter than the Concours (while making 33% more horsepower than either).  At 195kg, the Fireblade is even 10 kilos lighter than my first bike, a svelte 2007 Ninja 650r.




The 'Blade makes lightness pretty much everywhere.  I'm particularly fond of the speedholes all over it.




When it isn't holey, it's reduced material wherever possible.  Even the rim spokes are thinned out:


Where Honda had to use material, it's the lightest they could manage...




Compared to the Kawasaki Heavy Industries bikes I've owned, this CBR900rr is a built for purpose thing that feels more like working on an aeroplane than it does a motorbike.





... and it sure is pretty.