Friday 30 October 2015

Rossi & Marquez: A MotoGP editorial

WTF are you doing?  Falling over is what...
I've been watching replays and reading reviews over the MotoGP incident that rocked the world last weekend.  I think I've resolved it in my mind.

Here is what I saw:  Marquez was making a point of staying close to Rossi.  They stayed within inches of each other lap after lap on two completely different machines, one of which was a quarter second quicker per lap and 7km/hr faster in qualifying.  Marc says he was managing tires, but Dani Pedrosa, on an identical bike with identical tires was half a mile up the road riding away to the race win.  Marc's demonic Bridgestones that suddenly go off when he's in front of Rossi and come back to him when he's behind seem like what they are: an excuse.  Pedrosa's identical tires on an identical bike weren't so cursed.

Data is where the answer to this would be found.  These bikes are wired to the nines with sensors and record everything.  A detailed analysis of Marquez's laps will show whether he was delaying inputs to stay with Rossi, but I don't imagine Honda will be forthcoming with that information.

When Rossi ran wide after sitting up and coming off the gas (he was 4 seconds slower on the lap the incident happened), Marquez stayed right next to him, coming off the gas at the same time.  On the slow motion video below you can see him angle in to be right next to Rossi even though he'd obviously missed the corner.  Provoking an incident is what Marquez was trying to do.  At any point when Rossi sat up and slowed down Marquez could have ridden around the outside of him or slowed down and cut under him, but passing wasn't what he was looking for.

I'm in a difficult situation with this.  I haven't been watching MotoGP for very long.  My first full season was Marc's near perfect one, and I'm a fan, but this kind of riding isn't worthy of him.  I'm not paying to see him playing mind games with people.  If I wanted to see that I'd watch politicians.  I'm paying to see him ride the fucking motorbike like no one else can.

At 0.25 seconds a lap, Marquez should have been seconds ahead of Rossi by lap 7.
His 7 km/hr straight line speed should have had them no where near each other in the last part of the track.

Marquez is playing a game that goes well beyond Rossi.  There is no one in MotoGP who would be angrier with the idea that Marquez handed him the title than Jorge Lorenzo.  Rossi only has a season or two left in him, but Lorenzo could be racing well into Marquez' career, Lorenzo is an ongoing threat to Marquez.  Conspiracy theory makes this look like Rossi is the target, but he's a bit player in a longer game.  Marquez is playing on nationalism (both he and Lorenzo are Spanish) while diminishing Jorge's championship.  Jorge Lorenzo, 2015 world champion (thanks to Marquez) is going to piss off Jorge to no end.  Lorenzo doesn't just not know of any 'Spanish plan' to derail the legendary Italian's chance at a tenth world title, he'd be actively against it.

If you've got a kid antagonizing another kid in the playground, and the kid being antagonized suddenly lashes out, you don't just penalize the retaliator.  The kid doing the antagonizing is playing silly buggers and getting a smack in the face is what he can expect.  The antagonized kid should have just walked away, but sometimes that isn't possible, especially when emotions are heightened.  Running to race direction the moment he went down after dogging Rossi for lap after lap makes Marquez look like whiner.  I'd have had much more respect if he'd taken it on the chin and then laughed instead of seeking legal advice.

Actually, I'd have liked to have seen Rossi wave Marquez by and let him get a couple of seconds ahead.  I imagine Marquez would suddenly have had brake/tire problems again and they would have been side by side once more a few laps later, only making the whole thing look even more obvious; Marquez was committed to an entanglement with Rossi.  That Rossi got played is bothersome.  That Marquez, after playing silly buggers, then rushes into the pit to lodge a formal complaint is worthy of a thick ear.  If you're going to antagonize someone, expect some beats... or, you know, just ride the damn bikes!

Tuesday 27 October 2015


When I first got the Concours last year, I wanted to get it on track for the kind of mileage that these long distance bashers are capable of.  I picked it up with 25072 miles on the odometer, though it had a seized speedo cable so that might not have been accurate.

This summer has seen me do trips well beyond the scale of anything previously.  As soon as the snow lifted (almost), Max and I made a run up to Collingwood.  I then did a circumnavigation of Georgian Bay, and then outdid both with the ride to Indianapolis.  With all of that I was closing in on my goal of breaking the thirty thousand mile mark on the $800 Connie's odometer.

With the weather turning I was still a couple of hundred miles away from finishing my season on target, but a sunny, cold October day lay before me offering the chance at putting the Connie to bed with a milestone on it.

I'd originally wanted to crush 30k with a ride around Lake Huron, but time constraints meant it couldn't happen.  Fortunately I was close enough to hit my goal locally.  To do it I cobbled together my favourite local rides, going from the Forks of the Credit to Hockley Valley to Horning's Mills and then up to Creemore before coming back via Noisy River and Grand Valley.

178 miles and 30k is reached!
Icy Swiss chard...
With the temperature dropping and frost glinting in the early morning sun, the roads are much quieter than they were during the summer.

It was a cold haul over to hot coffee at Higher Ground in Belfountain, where I warmed my hands on the mug while surrounded by Caledon's fashionable trophy wives, drinking coffee at their leisure on a weekday morning.  My bike was the only non-Mercedes SUV in the parking lot.

Once warmed up I went back out and did the Forks without another car in sight:
It was so much fun that I thought I'd come back the other way, but quickly found myself behind a Lexus who had trouble keeping it moving let alone staying on their side of the road:
After getting out from behind this mobile-Lexus-chicane, I cut north on Mississauga Road and enjoyed a long, empty loop up Hockley Valley Road and back through Mono Cliffs.

North on Highway 10 to Shelburne I stopped in to the same Home Hardware we got chemical hand warmers in our April cold-ride and got some chemical hand warmers for my October cold-ride.

With warm hands I then tackled River Road out of Horning's Mills, once again without another vehicle in sight.  A magic moment happened when I rounded a corner to find myself riding next to two deer running across the meadow next to me.  The lead deer looked across at me, then back at its running partner and then bounded off into the tree line.  I couldn't have imagined a more perfect moment - just the kind of thing you'd want to catch on your action camera, except I hadn't turned it on.

...a 179 mile day and 30k is put to bed for the season.
A short rip up Airport Road had me in Creemore for lunch at the Old Millhouse.  After some hot beef poutine I was back out into the ever-warming day for a twisty ride up Noisy River's County Rd 9 before heading back through Grand River and home again.

Over the winter the Concours is getting new brake pads, the lines on the rear brakes and clutch are finally getting braided lines and both wheels are getting new bearings.  New tires are also in the plan.   The Bridgestone on the front has been fantastic while the Dunlop on the back has sometimes been squirelly, so a full round of Bridgestones are the goal.

While the rims are off and naked I'm going to look into doing a professional clean up and powder coat with them (not too expensive, maybe a hundred bucks a rim?).  I'll also look over all the rubbers and plastics to make sure it's ready for another busy summer next year.  I think 40k is a good target.  Time is the issue, I think the bike will have no trouble managing the miles.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Rainy Day Carburators

A cold, rainy Saturday had me break down the carburetor on the Yamaha XS1100.  A Triumph Spitfire and Mercury LN7 owned as a teen made me pretty handy with carburetors.  In addition to multiple rebuilds I also got handy at jury rigging manual chokes thanks to the utterly crap Ford Escort carb set up.

The beautiful Mikuni unit on the Yamaha looks like a piece of industrial art in comparison to the pedestrian Triumph and Ford carbs, unfortunately it's seized.  After breaking down the top end I soaked it and freed up the seized throttle body.

The next to-do with the Yamaha is to clean up the gas tank and then reassemble the fuel system.  The engine isn't seized and spins easily, so I think I'll have an easy time firing it up for the first time in years (knock on wood).

Here are some pics of Mikuni's Yamaha masterpiece:

The throttle cable wasn't playing nice even after taking apart the handle bar - so into the carb I go...

The Yamaha XS1100 engine block with the carbs off - it got the Warhol treatment....

Like everything else so far, the internals look to be in good shape on the old (35 year old!) Yamaha

Cleaning up the fasteners using the caps from each carb to keep things organized.

XS1100 is in for surgery

Not many riding days left as the weather turns up here in Canada

Thursday 22 October 2015

GoPro Alternates: The Contour

The Contour Roam2.  If you're looking for a motorbike
friendly, less expensive alternative to the GoPro, this is it.
No doubt, GoPro rules the action camera world, but I'm always on the lookout for alternatives to the very expensive king of the hill.  I'm waiting (seemingly forever) until the 360Fly becomes available in Canada, but in the meantime, the Contour Roam2 came across my desk, so I gave it a go.

I'd previously tried the Foscam AC1080, another cheap, GoPro alternative, but it was fairly disastrous.  The camera took nice enough video, and seemed sturdy in its shell, but the incredibly cheap accessories will let you down.  In the short time I had it the fastening mechanism never held up to wind (it wasn't geared and would just flop flat) and then the entire camera was gone after the cheap plastic mount let go while riding.  Unless you can source better quality mounts, I would not recommend the Foscam for motorcycles at all.

The basic Contour Roam2 is about the same price as the Foscam (about $150 Canadian, or 1/3 the price of the cheapest GoPro), but doesn't mimic the GoPro form factor.  Instead, the Contour is a brushed aluminum tube (in a variety of colours) with a very small frontal area making it an ideal motorcycling camera.  Unlike the GoPro or other cameras that copy its format, the Contour is a slim, low profile design that doesn't produce a lot of drag or wind noise.

The two suction mount options compared - you're paying
US exchange and 1/3 more in shipping for what, at first,
looks like a cheaper GoPro option.
The Contour also comes with much more robust mounting than that terrible Foscam.  While riding in a variety of conditions including some quality Canadian roads and a downpour (the Contour is waterproof without a case), the Contour never wavered, offering steady video and secure mounting at all times.

Mounts for action cameras appear much like printer refills - it's where the real money is.  Fortunately Contour offers a wide range of accessories and mounts and, unlike GoPro, ships from a Canadian distributor so you aren't surprised by a lot of extra costs.  The pricing for the mounts is also comparable to other action cameras, so you aren't getting extra hosed on the back end.

The Contour offers a wide range of accessories including motorcycle focused low profile, helmet and goggle mounts.  I've found the 360° stick-on mount to be robust and offer a variety of angles from a single location on the fairing.  You can rotate the Contour's lens to keep videos upright regardless of how you mount it, so you don't need to muck around with a lot of video editing.

Operation of the Roam2 is as simple as it gets.  The default setting is 60 frames per second 720p video, which looks sharp on youtube and keeps up nicely with a motorcycle's motion:

To change settings in the camera you need to have it hooked up to a PC with USB and be running Contour Storyteller (a free download).  This app lets you edit and share video and change camera settings.    The camera can be set to 1080p or a variety of lower settings.  It also has a photo every so many seconds setting.  It takes standard micro-SD cards which are cheap and easy to find.  Swapping cards takes only a moment, and they're tiny, so keeping them in a micro-SD card carrier (don't leave them loose, you'll lose them, they are tiny!) in your pocket means you can easily carry as much footage as you like.  The battery has yet to run out, even on all-day rides with lots of filming.

To turn on the camera you simply push the slider on top forward and a light comes on to let you know it's filming.  This is easy to do even with gloves on and I found I could do it even while riding, so catching just the good roads is an easy and obvious process.  The camera records to mp4 which is then easily uploadable to YouTube or other video sharing sites.  It doesn't work well with Windows Movie Maker, but does with everything else.

If you want live footage and camera control, the Contour+2
does the business, and at $430, it's over $100 less than a GoPro
If you've never made riding footage before the Contour Roam is an inexpensive way to get into it.  It's a basic, tough camera with solid mounts that suit the rough nature of video on a motorbike.  It isn't chock full of options but it does the business well.

Contour also offers the Contour+2 which is a much more complex camera in a similar form factor that offers wireless connection to your smartphone, GPS and super high frame per second options, all for a hundred bucks less than the typical GoPro.  If you dig the format, it makes a compelling alternative to the standard GoPro.

Saturday 17 October 2015

XS1100: Steps Toward Resuscitation

Snow last night, the XS got some mechanical
attention today as a result.
After looking over some internet advice (sic) on how to start a long dormant motorcycle engine (and ignoring never ending discussions on it), I got the XS1100 to the point where it would crank over (with spark plugs removed).  The plugs look brand new, but sooty.  Cleaning them up and regapping should be all that's needed.  It's nice to know it isn't seized, the electrics aren't pooched and the starter motor sounded solid.

I also have the airbox off and the carbs cleaned (though they look pretty clean before I did them).

The gas tank is a rusty mess, it was left outside and empty for a length of time.  I'm thinking about doing some instructables chemistry on it, just to try it.  Failing that, I think I'm going to try Evapo-Rust.

Here's what it looked like today:

Makes you wonder how many motorcycle tires don't get worn out before they need a change.

With the airbox removed, the wall-o-carbs is easy to get at.

Carb internals look to be in good shape.  Only the throttle cable is suspect.

The air box has cleaned up nicely

Thursday 15 October 2015

Autumn Colours

Thanksgiving Monday was warm, sunny and a perfect Fall ride.  I tried to connect two previous rides, but failed because it was a holiday weekend and the city had leaked out all over my quiet, country roads.

Just after lunch I headed north east to Horning's Mills and River Road, a favourite of mine.  The roads were clear and I had an enjoyable time getting off the middle of the tire, something I don't get to do as much as I'd like in southern Ontario.

Coming halfway back down River Road, I turned south to the top of Highway 10 and worked my way south in traffic to Mono Cliffs, where I road through the ridiculously crowded Mono Centre (lots of GTA cars trying to park at the park entrance) before cutting south on Airport Road and enjoying a clear run up Hockley Valley Road.

Things started to go really sideways in Orangeville.  I should have taken the hint and just headed home.  South on 10 turned into a parking lot at the lights on the highway, so I turned around and worked my way through town and down past Alton before heading south on Mississauga Road to Belfountain, where I hoped to grab a coffee and bike-watch.

It wasn't to be.  Traffic was backed up all the way in to Belfountain, and then it started to back up heading onto the Forks of the Credit as a clan of about thirty Indians (of the eastern variety) started to walk in a large clump down the middle of the road, enjoying the fall colours in equally colourful saris.

At this point I u-turned, abandoned any ideas about trying to access the Forks or Belfountain and headed home, tragically, without coffee.

It was a beautiful ride and reminded me of one very important fact: whatever you do, do not go any where near Caledon when Fall colours are on display!

River Road and then a diagonal cut up to Noisy River would have landed me in Creemore (safely out of reach of most day trippers from the GTA) for a nice coffee before the ride home.  Now I know.

Here are the colours!

I'm all about the bike, but if you're going to take a car, a freakin' 427 Cobra would be the one!

The ride through Horning's Mills & River Road

The mile eater!  I sometimes forget I'm on a Concours and find myself dropping a knee

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Bike Evolution

I've been pondering motorbikes as the season ends here in Canada and the darkness closes in.  I'm only 300 miles away from putting the Concours over the thirty thousand mile mark, which has been the goal this year.

The Concours has been a revelation.  This year I've gone international with it, doing thousand mile trips and circumnavigating great lakes.  I continue to modify and adjust, making it more and more long distance worthy.

Surprisingly, I'm finding it very satisfying in the twisties, and that 999cc Ninja motor wails like a banshee if you wind it up, so there is no lack of visceral thrill in riding it.  So satisfying is it that I'm left wondering what more I'd need in a road bike.

That's where the KLX came in.  As an off-road tool it's purpose built, but I'm finding that I don't have the time or the local access to dedicate to off road riding.  I enjoy it, but the cottage I was thinking of using it at isn't really that accessible and other than riding around on dirt roads, I'm finding it difficult to justify, especially for what it cost.

There is also the culture side of it.  I get a nostalgic jolt out of the idea of riding a classic Scrambler all over the place, but MX riding?  Not so much.  It all seems a bit Ricky Racer to me.  I like green laning, and trail riding, but I'm not so much about the radical off road stuff, so a less MX like bike would do the trick.   One that scratches that nostalgic itch at the same time would do double duty...
Triumph's Bike Configurator makes dreaming a bit too easy...

Maybe next year will evolve into a Scrambler while running the ever present Concours - a sport tourer and a multi-purpose classic would each get a fairer share of the time I can dedicate to the saddle.

The new Bonneville/Scrambler is something else again:
Bigger motor, lighter bike.  The 2016 Bonneville Scrambler is a piece of fast art!

Thursday 8 October 2015

Mechanical Sympathy

I've always had an over abundance of mechanical sympathy.  That sympathy often spills over into full on empathy for machines.  While I derive a great deal of joy from interacting with machines, the satisfaction I get out of fixing them is amplified by this natural inclination.

My first bike was a mechanically bullet proof 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 650r.  It had been dropped and scuffed, but it didn't need open heart surgery.  I was happy to clean it up and send it on its way, and while I got attached to it, it never felt like a two way relationship.

The Concours I have now is a whole new level of commitment.  Not only did I find it sitting in a field, buried in grass, but it took me a winter of rebuilding to get it on the road again.  In my first season riding it I've put on more miles than I ever did on the Ninja (it's a much more comfortable long distance tool).

Call me nostalgic (or perverse), but getting the four carburetors on the Concours running smoothly was very satisfying.  Even though I teach computer tech, I still find the clockwork nature of mechanical parts to have a grace that digital technology is lacking.  Listening to the Connie fire up at the touch of the starter on a cold morning and clear its throat is much more satisfying than listening to the clinical hum of a fuel injector making everything perfect.

I was out on the Concours again today - if the weather's dry I'm out on it.  I'm always astonished at how responsive such a heavy machine can feel.  It fits me well, needed me to save it, and then responded to that saving with thousands of miles of riding.  There may come a time when the Connie is more trouble than it's worth, but at the moment it's what I was looking for all along.
It's getting kind of crowded in there...

The Yamaha XS1100 sitting in the back of the garage will be my first go at a restoration, but as an owned bike it isn't really what I'm looking for.  It'll be my first go at a bike purchased for restoration rather than riding.  I'm curious to see how that process goes.

In the meantime, and completely off topic, here is some nice motorbike art I saw at Blue Mountain last weekend: