Showing posts sorted by relevance for query klx. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query klx. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, 15 February 2020

If you had £70k to spend on a car, which would you choose? Much more than a car!


£70k?  Yikes, that's $121,026 Canadian!  If I can opt out of the dick swinging options above, here's how I'd spend my hundred-and-twenty-K on things with four wheels, and two:


Mazda 2019 MX-5 RF GT
$44,870 CAD
That's a GT model with bells and whistles.  Put me on a twisty mountain road in this and your typical knuckle dragger in one of Top Gear's choices and I bet I'm the first one to the end... and I won't be sending it in for service and repairs every five minutes - and it looks spectacular!


RAM ProMaster Van
$44,625 + $15,375 upfit = $60,000
If you've read this blog before you know I've got a Guy Martin/van obsession that often coincides with a mid-Canadian-winter psychotic episode (I'm getting close now) involving escaping south with a bike in the back for a chance to get on two wheels again.  The Ram's a funky van.  I'd keep back another $15,000 to upfit it into a long distance camper/bike hauler/multi-use vehicle.


That puts me at about $105,000 Canadian with two new, very different vehicles.  What to do with the other sixteen thousand?


Suzuki DR650SE
$6000 (!)
They're on sale at the moment and a rock solid piece of off the tarmac ready kit.  It'll keep up with traffic on the road (unlike the KLX250 didn't) and take me anywhere - including expanding the short Canadian riding season by tackling the odd bit of snow.  I might look into some enduro competition with it too.  It's be a rough and ready option in situations where I'd be worried about a more road ready bike.


I've still got ten grand to play with and I've already had more fun than any of the try-hard Top Gear choices.  Time for something really frivolous that'll be as fast or faster than any of Porsche/Renault/Lamborghini nonsense that kicked this off.


'08 Suzuki Hayabusa
$7000
The first thing I stumble across on Kijiji is a $7000 '08 Suzuki Hayabusa.  Odd that Suzuki is the only Japanese manufacturer I've never owned and I've got two on the list this afternoon.

I've got a thing for orange bikes, and this one looks a peach - older rider, low mileage for the year and well looked after.

I'd hold back the other three grand just to make sure this is faster than anything on Top Gear's list because I like to be Tom... Petty.


If I had £70k to spend on a car?  I'd buy a nice car, a useful van and two awesome and very different motorcycles!  Why be dull?

Sunday, 29 September 2019

My First Honda: Fireblade!

I've had a pretty diverse group of R&R  (repair & recover) motorcycles to date.  My first R&R bike was the '94 Kawasaki Concours ZG1000 back in 2014.  Purchased for eight hundred bucks and cut out of long grass to get it out of the field it was in, the Concours got sorted over the winter and put back on the road where it took us to Indianapolis and went on to over twenty thousand kilometres of mileage before I sold it on for what I purchased it for this past summer.

The Concours became my regular riding bike so I sold on the Ninja.  Eventually a KLX250 off road bike came into the garage, but didn't last long as I struggled to find ways to use it in Ontario: land of no fun.  That led to a too-quick purchase of a Yamaha XS1100 from an entirely dodgy kid that led me into the headaches of sorting ownership.  That experience has made me more cautious in buying used bikes.  The belief is that all motorcyclists are salt of the earth types, but that isn't my experience; shifty would be a better description.


So far I've been able to make money on my R&R projects, Shed and Buried style, but I don't make it easy on myself.  Both the Concours and the XS1100 were big, four carburetor bikes with spaghetti loads of vacuum tubes and complex wiring.  I've taken my time looking for the next project and tried to look for something simple, air cooled and single cylinder, but bikes like that don't come up often.  As the summer fades and winter approaches, it was time to commit to a new R&R project.


This 1997 Honda CBR900RR Fireblade came up on Facebook buy and sell.  I've found the local nature of Facebook's marketplace offers up interesting opportunities that you don't find on the hardened semi-pro sellers of Kijiji and Autotrader, where you are much more likely to find shady characters who sell a lot of crap.  This twenty-two year old non-running Honda got me curious enough to contact the seller in Alliston.


It turns out the bike had gotten tangled in a divorce and was then sidelined.  It was eventually used to settle debts between the estranged couple, but now it belonged to a non-rider with no mechanical experience who just wanted it gone.  Her new partner was trying to sell it for her, but with it not running he wasn't getting any calls.  A late nineties CBR in safetied, running condition was going for about $4000, he was asking $1200 for this one as is.

We exchanged a number of emails, both of us cautious as we'd both met idiots from online sales (it turns out the internet is actually full of idiots).  As we got to know each other I asked increasingly direct questions - was is repainted to hide crash damage? (no, the former owner didn't like the stickered stock look)  - why is it in this state?  (where I got the bad karma backstory this bike was unfortunately wrapped up in).  The last problem to solve was how to get it here.

During our give and take the seller offered me the bike for $1200 instead of $1300, and then said he could trailer it down to my place for $100, so I got it at asking price with a $100 delivery charge.  The bike showed up and we had a good chat and ended up being given a milk crate full of pears from his parent's farm too.  Bonus Honda pears - good deal.  This low mileage, non-runner seemed like a steal upon first look.  The paint's a bit rough, but for a 20+ year old low mileage bike, she cleaned up a treat.

I was told the bike was a non-runner due to the carbs.  As I got into the bike mechanically I figured I'd look at the fuel system as a whole rather than only looking solely at the carb since I didn't know how long it had been sitting.  I'm glad I did.  The fuel tank had a worrying amount of rust in it.  I talked to people on the Practical Sportsbike Magazine Facebook group (one of my go-to bike magazines and a great place to talk to DIY types) and got suggestions around various acid etching and chemical routes.

I went out to Canadian Tire aiming to get some industrial grade hydrochloric acid but found Metal Rescue Rust Remover, a water based environmentally friendly solution that neutralizes rust and prevents more from forming.  It also helps the tank retain its structural integrity whereas acid eats holes in it.  My first go at a motorcycle tank cleaning (I've been lucky so far and not had to deal with it) went well.  I left the chemical in the tank for about six hours before recovering it back into the bottle (it can be reused).  With the tank sorted it was time to look at the rest.


The vacuum operated fuel pump in the bottom of the tank was clogged and a mess, but it too cleaned up nicely.  With the big end of the fuel system sorted out, I turned to the carbs.

Compared to the buried in the frame carbs on the Concours and XS1100, the Honda's are a joy to access.  Having seen the mess that was the rest of the fuel system, I figured the carbs were crammed full of guck, and they were.  The only other issues seemed to be more about mechanical cack-handedness than wear.


Once on the bench I've been able to isolate some obvious problems.  I found a spring laying under the carbs on the engine case.  If you're fixing a carb it generally helps to use all the parts.  I also found that one of the choke pins were broken, so the choke was only working on three of the four carbs, and the choke cable itself wasn't attached correctly, so the choke was only moving about 2/3rds of the distance it should.  These are all things that would prevent the bike from starting properly.

Yesterday I took the float bowls off and had a look at the bottom end of the carbs.  The ethanol in modern fuel is not a good mix with older fuel systems, like carburetors.  Not only can it eat away at the rubber and gaskets in older systems not designed for it, but it can also leave varnish, and worst of all, it's a water absorber, so it can lead to corrosion in older, gravity fed systems.  If there was ever evidence of modern ethanol based fuels making a mess of a carburetor, it was here in this old Fireblade, where every carb bowl was worse off than the one before it.


Thanks to some judicious use of carb-cleaner, they cleaned up nicely, but does ethanol ever do a job on mechanical fuel delivery systems!  Fortunately, if I stick with super unleaded from most stations in Canada, it means I'm not running any in this old bike from now on.

I run super in my bikes anyway because they're very fuel efficient anyway so it doesn't cost much and, at least on the Tiger, the power commander means I can maximize power out of it.  For the Honda or any other carb fueled bike, you should be running super just to stay away from the ethanol.

Today I'm going to pull the tops of the carbs and have a look at the state of things (I'm hoping better than below) and finish cleaning them.  I'm also going to see if I can fix that broken choke pin on carb 4 or else I'm going to have to track down the part.  Bikebandit has it for $50US, but no one else seems to have one available.

There are other bits and pieces in this poorly looked after carb that are suspect.  Rather than use boot clamps to attach the carb to the engine, the muppet who owned it before me appears to have put some kind of rubber sealant on them and attempted to 'glue' them to the block.  This is stupid in all sorts of ways.  Bits of this rubber seal would deteriorate in the gasoline rich air-fuel mix and get sucked into the engine, and there is no mechanical connection ensuring the carbs are tight and leak free to the engine.  For a system that runs on vacuum, this is a disaster.

The boots have cleaned up nicely, so I also need to source some ring clamps for them.  The Honda specific ones are hard to find, but I'm hoping I can find some aircraft grade ones that are an engineering match and easier to source.  Oetiker Clamps, ironically based in Alliston where the Honda came from, do some nice, high quality options that I should be able to fit.

So much of mechanics come back to common sense.  The guy who owned this before seems to have had a startling lack of it.  I'm hoping for $1200+$500 in parts I can get this Honda humming and ride it for a year before seeing if I can double my money on it (unless we bond).  Safetied bikes of similar vintage with twice the mileage are going for four grand.  Even with all the work done so far, the bike hasn't cost me a penny in parts and I may be within spitting distance of sorting out this abused Fireblade.



Follow up:
Tops of the carbs were fiddly - the plungers are a pain to reseat properly, but I worked through them and all the top ends have been cleaned, though they were all in good shape as befitting a low mileage bike like this.  The nastiness was all in the float bowls.

I gotta say, I'm enjoying Honda engineering.  Kawasaki has a real heavy industry feel to it by comparison, though my Kawi experience is mainly on a big sport tourer and this Honda is built for one thing only... getting down the road quickly.  But this bike has an engineering elegance to it that makes it a pleasure to work on.

With the cackhanded way this bike has been worked on, there are a number of fiddly bits missing or broken. I was sourcing ring clamps (x8), a choke plunger and other odds and ends and found the price quickly creeping up.  I reached out to local bike breaking yards and only heard back from NCK in Woodstock, ON, who seem organized and on their game.  They have a donor carb in used, rust free (stored inside) condition for $250CAD.  That's within fifty bucks of where I was with buying bits and pieces and means I'd have a lot of spares I could always sell on after.  I'm going the donor carb route this week.

Oh, and Oetiker clamps got back to me and apologized for not having what I needed because (of course) the Honda's clamps are a special size and would require special manufacturing.  My quest for carb hose clamps continues.



NOTES:

One of the tricky bits of working on old bikes is getting the documentation you need to work on them accurately.  The internet is a gold mine for this.  If you're working on a late '90s Honda CBR900RR Fireblade, you'll find this handy:

1996/7 Honda CBR900RR Owner's Manual:  https://mototribu.com/constructeur/honda/1996/1000cbr/doc/revuetechnique_900rr.pdf


It has lots of good technical graphics in addition to all the specs you need.

***


I was also able to source the Haynes Manual for this bike from Fortnine on sale for only $35.  Most other places were over $40US, so finding that on sale was a good first step in this project.

At the moment I've got emails out to The Bike Yard in Caledon and Oetiker Clamps in Alliston.  With any luck I can source the bits I need and have this Honda purring even before the snow starts to fly, then I can spend the winter sorting out the other fluids and maintenance before it hits the road in the spring.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

The Potential of Emptiness: Honda Thoughts


The garage is looking pretty spacious this weekend.  The Concours sold yesterday so the Tiger is alone in the bike-cave for the first time.  I ended up selling it on if I could sell it for what I bought it for, which I did.  I owned it for five years, rescued it from retirement, doubled the mileage on it, had some great adventures riding around Georgian Bay and down to the last MotoGP event at Indianapolis in 2015.

I was ready to go in 2016 when the Concours wouldn't start.  With the Canadian motorcycling season agonizingly short I lost my patience, but then a Tiger appeared as if by magic and suddenly the Concours wasn't a necessity.  It's hard to believe I've had the Tiger for three years already; it isn't going anywhere.

With the money from the Concours set aside, I'm already considering my next project.  I'm aiming for a bike that is significantly different from the Tiger, which is a great all purpose machine, but it's heavy; a lighter specialist is the goal.  The guy I sold the Concours to already has one and half a dozen other bikes.  Having that many bikes would be a handful, I've always been about a functional garage.  Jeff, the motorcycle Jedi, has three very different bikes, that's the direction I'd like to go in.

In a perfect world I'd have the Tiger, a sports bike and a light dual sport.  A generalist, a tarmac specialist and an off-road specialist.  Time to peruse the Ontario used bike market.


There's a dual sport in need of some mechanical sympathy.  These typically go for twice what he's asking.  Parts are accessible and not particularly expensive.  There is a complete, virtually new head on ebay for about $760CAD.  If I could get the purchasing price down to $2200, I could have a virtually new Honda dualsport for three grand that would be worth twice that.

The worrying bit is this guy managed to blow a Honda engine, which are famous for being bulletproof.  If it has been abused (the dent in the tank suggests it's been dropped, though it's a dualsport that goes off road, so I shouldn't read too much into that) then the engine could have more major damage and require big end cranks and such, which could make this a money hole.

The fact that it runs is promising and it does sound like a top end issue - but I'm guessing it's a head replacement or major remachining situation.  It's an air cooled single cylinder, so after the complexity of  the water cooled, four cylinder Concours, this'd be lawn mower simple.  I'm tempted.


I've always had a soft spot for VFR Interceptors, and this lovely example is up for sale at a pretty reasonable price considering how much work has gone into it.  Hugo, the editor of BIKE Magazine recently got one of these and went on and on about how bullet proof they were, so even an older machine like this would be readily usable.

With this RC-36-2, last gen version you get a VFR at the pinnacle of its Honda evolution.  It's technically considered a sport-touring bike, so you don't get caned in Ontario's ridiculous insurance system, and it weighs less than 200 kilos, which would make it the lightest road bike (ignoring the KLX250, which wasn't really a road bike) I've ever owned.


If I could get it for $3500, I'd be able to ride it for years.  Rather than depend singularly on the now 16 year old Tiger, I could split duties between a generalist and a road specialist.  This too is tempting.

It'd be nice to have both, the XR as a project and the VFR as an immediate gratification machine; they would make for a very diverse garage.  I think I could have both on the road for just over six grand CAD.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Get S.M.A.R.T.

My birthday and Father's Day are within a month of each other, so I made a combined ask and got a day at S.M.A.R.T. Adventures in Horseshoe Valley.  My previous off road experience was limited to a couple of hours on a dirt bike at a farm many years ago and a short and frustrating go with a KLX250.  My goal in taking the S.M.A.R.T. (Snowmobile, Motorcycle, ATV, Rider Training) course was to explore those aspects of motorcycle dynamics that are beyond the range of typical road riding - unless you're in the middle of a crash.

There are a lot of people who try motorcycling then retire early.  They often have a lot of advice.  Many of these short-term motorcyclists liked to warn me earnestly and repeatedly about how dangerous it was to ride to early or late in the season when there was a chance of sand being on the road.  Anything that wasn't table top smooth, grit free tarmacadam meant zero traction and an imminent crash for these earnest scare mongers.

I've always ridden on loose material with caution, but after watching a riding buddy with many years of experience step his heavy Super Ténéré out sideways on gravel roads, I've thought that there is more to gravel and sand than just being cautious.  Between that and my Dakar fixation, it was time to learn something new.  That same guy was the one who suggested the SMART program (he'd been on it previously).  Here was an opportunity to treat loose material as something other than an imminent crash.

That anxiety about traction on a motorbike runs deep in the limited experience motorcycle crowd, and that crowd contains a lot of people who have only ever done a single type of riding on a single type of bike.  If you're going to call yourself a motorcyclist you owe it to your craft to experience as many different types of riding as you can.  The SMART program is an accessible opportunity to do that in the trail riding/off road community in a controlled environment on someone else's equipment (they even provide all the gear).


You owe it to yourself to experience motorcycling in unfamiliar ways...
We started an already nuclear hot day before Canada Day with the affable Clinton Smout going over basic control and balance with a GasGas trials bike.  In no time he had everyone from old guys like me to nine year olds balancing on two wheels while stationary.  I wouldn't have thought that was possible prior - but I was able to stand on the pegs on the stationary bike until my legs got tired.


Getting my Ross Noble on!  Can the
Scottish Six Day Trial be far off?
Clinton also gave the dry stick demonstration, showing how an old, brittle stick snaps easily compared to a young, supple one.  He then went on to say that SMART is about to have its hundred-thousandth customer in the next few weeks and in the decades it has been running they've only had twenty-two ambulances, all of them for old, dry sticks over thirty-five years old.  This forty-nine year old stick paid close attention to this talk.

Within minutes we'd been set up with Joe, the advanced instructor who has over thirty years of experience off road.  I was worried about being put in the advanced group with so little off road experience but they're more worried about whether or not you know how to ride a bike; if you know the controls, you're advanced.  There were larger groups of beginners and intermediate riders learning the basics, but we were just three: Joe, me and a German fellow with motocross experience who has ridden every pass in the Alps.  I was still feeling a bit out of my depth and didn't want to slow anyone down.

We spent some time by the main centre going up and down the hills under the watchful eye of Joe.  I suspect this had more to do with assessing our riding skills than it did anything else.  We did some hill climbs, but on a dirt-specific bike with knobbly tires this was an easy thing to do.  We were on Yamaha TT-R230cc bikes, which might seem a bit on the small side, but the characteristics of this bike were very forgiving; it would pull hard out of any gear.  Joe described them as tractors, and they were.  If it stalled, the electric start fired it right up again, and the massive suspension travel and tires made easy work of every obstacle.

Soon enough we were off into the woods.  We'd stop under the trees out of the blinding sun and 40+°C humidity and practice skills such as clutch control on walking speed turns, rear wheel lockups and eventually crossing large logs.  As my confidence improved so did my speed on the trails, which we'd go and ride to make some wind and cool down between slow speed work.  I was able to keep up with Joe on all but a steep, washed out hill covered in big rocks where I ended up pulling off to the side for a moment to collect myself.  That had more to do with sewing machine legs than it did with bad technique.  If you think off road motorcycling isn't physically demanding, you've never done it before.  In forty plus degree temperatures, we were necking a bottle of water every time we went back to base.

On our next run we focused on standing on the pegs and working the bike with body position and weighting the side we wanted to move to.  This involved going over improbably deep ruts while soaking up the vertical movements with the suspension and our legs while also making micro-adjustments to clutch, throttle and brakes to keep things moving smoothly.  If you think riding a motorcycle is dexterous, trying to operate controls with all four appendages while dropping into foot deep ruts ups the ante again.

At one point we were purring through the forest (the little Yamahas are remarkably quiet for one cylinder thumpers) when Joe held a hand up and made the kill the engine sign.  We all rolled to a stop and not fifteen feet away was a fully grown doe (a deer, a female deer).  She stood there munching her grass while watching us from a sunny glade, looking like a scene out of Bambi.  After a minute or so she ambled off into the brush.  My son took the ATV course in the afternoon and they came across wild turkeys - you're likely to see some wildlife when out in the woods.

As lunch approached our experienced German went and rode with his son and Joe and I went deeper into the woods, now on trails that would barely qualify as a walking path.  The SMART program is based in Beaver Valley, which is part of the Niagara Escarpment.  The Beaver River has cut the valley through the escarpment, which is also scattered with post glacial erratics (big rocks).  You're working big elevation changes through thick forest including stumps and downed logs along with some very rocky sections; it's a challenging mix.  Now that I was getting the hang of it, I was spending half my attention watching Joe's thirty plus years of trail riding experience as he picked out lines through this spaghetti.  We'd stop every once in a while and have a quick chat about what was going on, with Joe giving gems like, "you'll see me going for the hard pack on the side of the trail, especially when you see all that loose stuff in the middle.  The loose stuff falls into the gulley in the middle and can get pretty deep."

We had a quick lunch, but it was so hot I forced myself to eat something even though I had no appetite.  More importantly was getting water into me.  By now we were well into the forties Celsius with the humidity, and everyone was drooping.  My son had arrived for the ATV training and soon enough he was off and doing loops in the compound, getting a handle on the thing.



As the dust got kicked up in the in-field we disappeared into the woods onto even tighter trails.  I stalled going up a hill so steep that I had to roll it backwards down it to get the carb to feed again and restart it.  Joe then showed me how to roll it backwards on the clutch while powered off and in gear in a controlled manner to get out of a tight spot on a hill.  By this point I was keeping up with Joe as he was making tracks.  It was then that he asked if I'd be interested in going out on a BMW F800GS for the last part of the day.  We'd wrung the necks of the Yamaha dirt bikes doing over fifty kilometres, so I said, 'absolutely!'.  It'd be a chance to try a different bike, which I never say no to.

I'd ridden a BMW once before while riding the south end of Vancouver Island a few years ago.  It was an F800ST - the sports touring version of the adventure bike I was going to ride now.  The F800GS is a nice, tall bike which fits me well.  The controls feel quality, as do the suspension and tires, which cornered so well I forgot they were knobblies.

Joe took us out onto the road and we disappeared into the Copeland Forest for a couple of hours, skipping our water break and riding everything from pavement to fire roads, to dual tracks and, finally, single track trails.  The BMW was obviously much bigger than the Yamaha we'd been on earlier (114kgs for the Yamaha, 229kgs for the BMW), but it's amazing how off-road capable it is considering that weight difference.  It feels balanced and nimble.  The only thing stopping you from trying the really gnarly trails would be if you got stuck (and what it would cost to fix it).  Getting this out of a hedge wouldn't be anything like as easy or cheap as the simple, little dirt bike.

Riding the BMW reminded me of the limitations I experienced with the KLX250 I purchased a couple of years ago.  It was off road capable (I forded rivers with it), but as a dual purpose bike it couldn't carry me at what I considered a safe speed on the road (it would barely touch 100km/hr, which is what most traffic is doing on Canadian back roads).  The BMW was quick and capable on the road, and when we went off road (though on nothing as gnarly as we did on the Yamaha), it did the job without any surprises.  Like the F800ST I rode a few years ago, the twin engine felt agricultural and uninspiring, though it was certainly quiet and efficient.  Compared to the exhaust popping and snarling, induction howling Tiger, the engine felt rather characterless which is a shame considering what a lovely thing the rest of the bike is.  The suspension was so good it made me wonder if the wooden shocks on my Tiger are in need of some attention.

We rolled back in at the end of the day just a few minutes before the other classes returned, and drank a lot of water.  I'd covered well over 100 off and on road kilometres over the day on two very different bikes.  Joe was approachable and willing to answer any questions, but better than that he used decades of experience to quickly assess where I was at and then lay down a series of increasingly challenging lessons that kept me on the edge of my learning curve all day.

I'd been sweating for hours and was ready to get out of the armour and go and wash the caked on dirt away.  My wonderfully wise wife who did all the photography you see here had also arranged a room at the Horseshoe Resort next door, so within twenty minutes I was flat out in a pool thinking about the day.  I'd managed not to dry-stick my way into anything I couldn't handle and was in good, but muscle sore shape.

My son has always been a cautious fellow and reluctant to ride or drive, but he spent a very intensive two hours with Adam on the ATVs and rolled back in looking like he was ten feet tall.  It's amazing what an accessible, patient instructor can do for your confidence.  By the end of the day he was talking about driving the ATVs up at the cottage, which had never been a consideration before.

I can't recommend S.M.A.R.T. highly enough.  If you're an experienced road rider you own it to your craft to spend some time learning these skills, they might save your bacon one day.  If you've never tried offroad powersports before and are looking for an accessible and relatively inexpensive (it's about $200 for a half day and $300 for a full day - all in including all gear and equipment) way to get into it, this'll do that too.  We'll be back again.

With amusement park tickets north of a hundred bucks, you're close to the cost of a day at SMART to park, eat, stand in lines and sit on roller coasters at Wonderland.  Why on earth would you line up to passively experience fake thrills when you could get learn real world skills and experience real world thrills at SMART?  The same could be said for increasingly expensive professional sports spectating.  No line ups, no crowds, (though deer and turkey on occasion) and a great day becoming genuinely accomplished in the great Canadian outdoors.  How could you say no to that?






The 230cc Yamaha I rode typically lasts 6-8 years.  They do a lot of on-site maintenance.  One of the instructors said that they don't wear out engine wise as they aren't ridden that hard, but the transmissions suffer from a hard life with many people new to bikes learning how to clutch and gear on them.



LINKS:
S.M.A.R.T. Adventures:  http://www.smartadventures.ca/

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Weights and Measures

I'm always mindful of how heavy a motorcycle is, but there is a lot of static in the way. Between the splits Canadians do between the metric and imperial systems and the games played by motorcycle manufacturers, I'm often left second guessing what I think I know.

I've owned everything from feather weight KLX250s (278lbs/126kgs) to light weight Ninja 650s (393lbs/178kgs), heavy weights like the Concours (‎671lbs/305kgs) and middle weights like my current Tiger (474lbs/215kgs), but even those statistics are suspect because manufacturer's will share a dry weight (no fluids) if it's a bike that is bragging on its lightness and a wet weight (ready to ride with fuel) if it doesn't matter so much or the bike has a tiny tank and lousy range.  There is no consistency at all in this other than the marketing angles being played.  I have no idea if those numbers published on the bikes I've owned above are even equivalent.  Are they wet weight?  Dry weight?  Something else?

To try and get my head on straight I've gone looking for some stats, and found montesa_vr's work on ADVrider.com (great site!  Check out their epic ride reports if you like to get lost in a long distance adventure).  

I took that exhaustive list of street legal dual sports and dumped them into a spreadsheet, sorting them by comma separated values.  Then I added in some handy metric/imperial connections and stats on weight of a tank of fuel, so you can see them all in one place.

one gallon of gasoline weighs 6.2 lbs.
One litre is equal to 0.264172 gallons (US liquid).
So, 1 litre = 1.6378664 lbs.
1lb = 0.453592 kgs
1 litre of gasoline = 0.7429237021194 kgs




It ain't heavy, it's my Tiger. It's obviously lighter than
the Concours I rode before it, but much heavier than
the Ninja before that. I just wish the stats were
consistent and comparable
The Tiger 955i is listed as a 215kg dry weight.  With a full tank of gasoline it's loaded up with almost 18kgs of fuel, putting it at about 233kg, yet it's listed as a 257kg wet weight.  So, that must be 18kgs of fuel and 24kgs of oil and coolant?  That seems like an awful lot of oil and coolant (and brake fluid? and what, fork oil?  How asinine does dry weight get?).  I've since been told that some manufacturer's don't include batteries in the dry weight of a bike - this is getting silly.

At 566lbs, my old Tiger would be 7th in the current crop of heavy weight adventure bikes.  I don't think it's exceptionally heavy for what it is, but it's hard to tell with the smoke and mirrors.

Dry weight is virtually meaningless, I'm astonished that it's even given as a statistic.  When would you ever need to know what a bike weighs without any fluids in it?  I couldn't run, so it's an academic statistic verging on pointless.  I also get montesa_vr's point that bikes shouldn't be punished on weight comparisons for being able to carry a reasonable amount of fuel.  Putting a peanut sized tank on a bike so you can brag about the weight seems disingenuous.

At least a wet weight comparison offers up a bike that is actually operational.  A wet weight with an empty tank seems like the obvious standard if you don't want to punish long distance capable machines, but no one seems to do it.

Case in point:  the picture on the left is from UK BIKE Magazine.  Don't expect a comparable standard in motorcycle weights.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Summer 2018: Things to do list: Horizons Unlimited Ontario Meeting

HU Ontario 2018Horizons Unlimited is having a big meeting in central Ontario in May and it'd be nice to go.  It's a three hour ride from home but only about an hour and a half from the inlaw's cottage.  I looked into staying over but it's a pretty penny.  Staying at the resort it's at is north of eight hundred bucks for the cheapest condo type place available.  Even assuming I could find some people to divide the cost with, that's more than I'm willing to pay.


Heading up Friday I could do a loop around the Kawartha Highlands on some twisty, Canadian Shield roads before landing at the cottage.  The whole thing would be about 850kms over a long weekend.  A day of riding up there, a day at Horizons and then a ride home on Sunday - entirely doable.

The ride around Kawartha
They structure the pricing to get you there for the whole weekend, so even if I just went for the day it's still seventy five bucks, but then I guess I could always go back Sunday if it really did the business.  I've had friends attend before and really enjoy it.  If there were wild camping opportunities in a less resorty location, I'd be more willing to commit, but refugee camping (in rows, on a site) isn't my cup of tea, and the alternative staying in a building ends up being money I'd rather spend elsewhere.

Still, for seventy five bucks, it might be a good way to get a sense of the overlander adventure club, I just wish they offered a first time taster's package.  They say 'come to an HU event and find your tribe' - but I tend toward a tribe of one.  I want to believe, and I want to go, but I don't want to end up spending a mint on something that ends up not being a fit.  The aspie in me wants me to just go for a long ride in the Haliburton Highlands - I'm trying to use that to convince him to go and meet people... something he really isn't fond of.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Five Years: Diversifying Motorcycle Experience and Finding Balance

After the first year on two wheels I began thinking about more challenging motorcycle projects that would diversify my experience.  Starting in year two I did my first away motorcycle ride, renting scooters and then a BMW around the southern end of Vancouver Island - that led to my first article being published in Motorcycle Mojo and gave me a lot of insight into variations in motorcycling.

In addition to pushing my riding experience in daring new directions (like riding two-up with my son on an unfamiliar bike on one of the most challenging roads in Canada), I also began looking for a bike that needed more than just regular maintenance to operate... a bike that needed me.


I discovered just such a thing toward the end of that riding season, a long dormant Kawasaki Concours that we had to cut out of the grass it was sitting in.  Something that old (twenty plus years at the time) had a lot of perished rubber on it, and when I finally got it up to temperature it also had a sizable oil leak.  The winter was spent getting a new oil cooler and lines, replacing a lot of rubber bits and otherwise getting this old warrior back on its feet again.

The Concours not only got me moving mechanically, but it also offered a real blank slate, something I've since realized is only available on well used bikes (unless you're loaded and like to pull apart new things).  I'd enjoyed the aesthetic restoration of the Ninja and was looking forward to doing the same thing on the Concours.  Getting an old bike and making it not only usable but unique looking has been one of the highlights of my motorcycling career to date, and a trend I intend to continue.  It's something that my current too-nice Tiger doesn't offer me.

The Kintsugi Concours became my go-to ride and the Ninja became my first sold bike.  It was difficult to part with something I'd developed such an emotional bond with.  I can understand why the people with the space and means hang on to every bike they buy.  Having beaten the selling a bike emotional roller coaster, I immediately went looking for another, but it took a while to finally find the right thing, and in the meantime the old Concours suddenly became less than dependable.

A KLX250 that couldn't do 100km/hr with me on it made me feel like I was overly exposed and under-powered while riding on the road, though it was a deft hand off it and gave me my first real off road experiences.  I held on to it over the winter and when there was finally a break in the never ending Canadian snow I thought this is the moment the KLX will shine, on dirty, just thawed roads - except it wouldn't start.  It was a lot easier to sell because I'd never fallen in love with it.  Getting $400 more than I bought it for didn't hurt either.

Later that summer I made my next motorcycle buying error and stumbled into an old Yamaha XS1100 sitting on the side of the road.  I ignored the three strikes against it (non-runner with no ownership being sold by a gormless kid) and purchased it anyway; I won't do that again.  I got lucky on the ownership - it was within a whisker of being a write-off and had a long and difficult history (I was the thirteenth owner!), but I was able to sell it on after sorting the ownership and just broke even.  In the process I stumbled onto a balancing act I hadn't considered before.


I love riding older bikes I wrench myself, but they aren't always ready to ride.  When the otherwise dependable Concours wasn't and my only other choice was an ancient Yamaha I'd only just freed up the brakes and carbs on, I found myself with nothing to ride as the cruelly short Canadian motorcycling season began.  I'd gambled too much on being able to keep the old bikes rolling.  With riding days so valuable in the Great White North, that wasn't a viable approach.

I still had most of the money from the Ninja sitting aside and my wise wife said to just focus on getting something newer and more dependable.  Maintaining that balance means having a riding ready bike and a project bike, and not messing up that equation.  To further complicate things, I'm a big guy so I needed a bike that fit, and my son was getting bigger every year and loved coming along, so I needed a bike that would fit us both.  Being the onerous person I am, I didn't do the obvious thing and buy a late model Japanese touring bike that runs like clockwork.

My daily rider suddenly popped up on Kijiji but it ended up being the most emotionally driven purchase yet.  Instead of a sensible five year old, low mileage Kayamonduki, I got bitten by a thirteen year old Tiger.  It was European, over budget, too old and with too many miles, but the owner was a young professional (nuclear operator!) and from the UK and we had a good, straight up chat about the bike.  I was honest about my position (the Tiger was out of my league but I loved it and wanted it), and he was straight up with his position (he was about to take it in to trade for a new Triumph at the dealership and even my lower offer was much better than he would have gotten on trade in).  I ended up feeling like I stole the bike for over a grand less than he was asking and he got more for it than he otherwise would have.  It was an emotionally driven purchase with a lot of rational oversight.

With all that good karma the Tiger has turned out to be a special thing.  I was only the third owner.  In thirteen years it had averaged less than 4000kms/year, and on two years the first owner had ridden it out to Calgary and back (seven thousand plus kilometres each time).  It had been power commandered (that had never come up in the purchasing discussions), indicating that the original owner had really fawned over this bike.  The guy I bought it off wasn't very mechanically minded and it hadn't had much in the way of regular maintenance, but then he hadn't used it much.  Within a couple of weeks I'd gotten it safetied, done all the maintenance and given it a good tuning - it has run like a top ever since.


It's an older, European bike, but fuel injection and a resurgent Triumph Motorcycles Co. using the latest manufacturing techniques means it's not a bonkers choice as a daily rider.  On the second year of ownership it fired right up after hibernating under a blanket in the garage, and it did again this year.  I've fixed some dodgy, plastic fuel connectors on the tank, changed the tires and done the fork oil and other fluids along with the chain, but other than the fuel fittings, it's all been regular maintenance.  The Tiger has been such a treat and it's such a rare thing (I've only ever seen one other) that I can't see myself letting it go.

Meanwhile the Concours became the project bike, but since I wasn't depending on it, the project took on new dimensions.  I stripped the old fairing off and ended up with a muscle bike like no other.  I've experienced some drift with this project and I think when I get it to a riding level I'll sell it with the aim to make my money back on it (shouldn't be too hard considering what I got it for).

I think the drift comes from biting off more than I can chew as far as tools I have on hand and time and a comfortable place to work.  If had welding gear handy and could do the fabrication I needed, I think I'd still be be pushing for an edgy completion to the project which has taken longer and has been more involved than I initially planned.  The heart is willing but I'm too tight money and time-wise to chase this big of a thing.  In the winter it hurts to go out in the garage and work on it and in the summer I'd rather be out riding.  Future projects might be more of a Shed and Buried/SPQR approach where I can get a bike sorted and back on its feet again, have some fun with it aesthetically and then move it on without losing any money on it.  Making enough on each one to keep me in tools and pay for the process would be the dream.


The sophomore years of motorcycling have been about pushing into more challenging riding opportunities.  From riding Arizona (another one that got published), to going to the last MotoGP race at Indianapolis to circumnavigating Great Lakes and Georgian Bay, I've gotten more and more daring and gone further afield with each season.

These years have also been about dusting off and expanding my technical skills and have seen me do everything from oil coolers to complete carburetor rebuilds.  The garage has gotten better and better in the process, though it's still bloody cold in the winter.  If I could find a solar powered heating system for the space I'd be a happy man.  If I had a heated, insulated work space about twice the size, I'd be even happier.  The other side of the coin is riding opportunities.  Living somewhere where you can't ride for 3+ months of the year isn't conducive to building saddle experience.  I'd be happier if I lived in an all year riding opportunity - or at least if I had access to such places over the winter here.


20 hours might have gotten me able to manage the basic
operations of a motorcycle - the Conestoga course was a
weekend with about 4 hours on bikes each day, then some
very tentative rides in the neighborhood got me to 20 hours.
At five years I feel like I've put a lot of time into improving my rider's craft.  I've also spent a lot of energy getting the rust off my mechanical skills.  What I most wish for the next five years is to maintain my hunger for more motorcycle experiences.  I'd like to try  a wider range of different bikes and types of riding and find a way to dig even deeper into mechanics.  This year I'm hoping to take an off-road training course.  In the future I'd love to find the money and time to take track riding, if not to pursue racing then at least to explore riding dynamics at the extreme end in a controlled environment.

If you put ten thousand hours into something you've developed a degree of expertise in it.  In each season I've tried to beat ten thousand kilometres of riding (and succeeded) before the snows fall.  Those fifty plus thousand kilometres have probably had me in the saddle for over a thousand hours and I've easily spent that again in the garage doing repairs and maintenance.  If feel like my motorcycle apprenticeship is well underway, I just need to keep finding ways to feed that expertise.




The light cover in the garage - a reminder...