Saturday 31 December 2016

Extending the Canadian Motorcycle Riding Season: Snow Bikes!

The idea of a snowmobile conversion for a motorcycle keeps popping up everywhere this winter.  Timbersled makes just such a thing.  It's seven grand Canadian for the system plus another fifteen hundred for the fitting kit.  The Husqvarna FE501S is a road legal dual sport bike that the kit fits.  They can be found for about twelve grand.  It's a rich man's game but that doesn't stop me from dreaming about it.  For about twenty grand Canadian ($14,900 US) I'd have a year 'round off road specialist that would also get down the road when needed.  The thought of pulling up to a RIDE spotcheck in a blizzard on a plated version of one of these makes me quite happy.  Officer: 'Uh, what's that?'

The KLX250 I tried a while back was so slow with me on it that I felt unsafe on roads.  I couldn't coax it to 100km/hr which meant I had a row of traffic behind me even on country back roads.  The Husky weighs less and has almost three times more horsepower.  Keeping up with traffic on back roads would not be a problem.  Those capabilities mean it'd carry me and some camping gear deep into the countryside in the summer while also being snow-bike convertible in the winter, all for twenty five hundred bucks less than a BMW GS.

A new snowmobile costs sixteen grand or more and only works for a few months of year if you're lucky.  From that point of view a road ready enduro bike with a Timbersled system looks like a more useful and cost effective approach to riding in the snow (and everything else). 

Timbersled Snow Conversion System

The Husqvarna FE 501S Dual Sport Motorcycle

In the snow!

In the desert!

On forest trails!  All on the same bike.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Busy Winter Garage & Kawasaki Industrial Art

I never intended to become hooked on Kawasakis.  The motorcycle fixation of my younger self was always Hondas, but when I finally got into motorcycling it was Kawasakis that kept appearing in the right place at the right time, and they've generally been good to me.  To date I've owned three Kawasakis, two Yamahas and a Triumph; not a Honda in sight.

After selling the Yamaha XS1100 custom project bike last summer I decided to double down on the wounded Concours which, in spite of a lot of work and money spent, wasn't sellable.  When I can ride I ride but when the snow flies I tend to get busy in the garage, and this winter is no different.

The winter garage is a busy garage.  The Tiger's having a rest while I work on the Concours custom.  Before the spring season begins the Tiger'll have new fork oil, spark plugs and a coolant flush.
The Concours is in an unprecedented state of undress.  With the rear end removed and the plastics off it looks like a completely different machine.  Yesterday I removed the coolant reservoir located under the oil cooler behind the front wheel.  It's going to get relocated to the back of the battery box so it's out of the way of rocks being kicked up from the road.  There are a lot of after market options for a coolant reservoir, so finding an alternative that fits well in the new location shouldn't be hard.

The 7 inch round headlight with built in LED indicators showed up from Amazon but I'm still waiting on the tail light.  I'd initially thought of doing some kind of front fairing but now I'm going bare bones with only metal framing to mount the light and minimal instruments.  

I purchased some stainless steel framing and I've been cutting it into muffler mounts and the rear light fairing bracket.  That rear fairing piece is going to be as minimal as possible as well.  Perhaps even a box for the rear light in bare frame.  Visible girder frame pieces are going to become a part of what this will look like when it's finished.

I took the instrument cluster apart to see if any of it was salvageable (it wasn't), but the insides look like something out of the DaVinci Code!

Some 90° brackets on the upper fork clamps has me ready to try some headlight mounting ideas.

Monday 26 December 2016

Pigeon Forge Motorcycle Base Camp Trip Planning

The Smokey Mountains are a motorcycle Mecca for a reason.
Using a combination of and I've been planning day trips from Pigeon Forge, which seems a sensible place to explore the Smokey Mountains from.  The process can serve as escapism on a foggy, freezing drizzle Boxing Day, or it could be  pre-planning for an inevitable trip.

I've variously daydreamed about driving the Tiger down in a van over the Christmas break to New Orleans and Key West, as well as riding down to The Tail of the Dragon next August for a complete solar eclipse.  There are a lot of good reasons to figure out possible rides for when I'm eventually in the area.

Pigeon Forge is located just south east of Knoxville and offers a great launching point into the Smokey Mountains.  The area around there is covered in desirable roads:

The only trick with a winter trip is changeable weather.  It looks like next week in Pigeon Forge would have been a bit challenging:

It's a roll of the dice going south in the winter but the summer's a sure thing.  Maybe I'll find myself in the Smokey Mountains next summer when the moon hides the sun.

200 KM East Loop

230KM Pigeon Forge low land loop

Pigeon Forge 300km South Smokey Mtn loop

240 KM loopback Dragon's Tail

Sunday 25 December 2016

Stripping a BMW Airhead

On the shortest day of the year, as the sun set in the middle of the afternoon, I found myself driving into the country to help Jeff the motorcycle Jedi lift the engine out of his BMW airhead cafe racer project.

Since it came out of the shed it had been hibernating in for over a decade, the old R100 has been stripped down to its bits and pieces.  Jeff is going to get the frame powder coated which was why I was there to help get that big air cooled lump out.

A BMW R100RT stripped down to its component parts emphasizes just what a simple and elegant machine this is.  We were both able to easily lift the boxer engine out of the frame.  I doubt it weighed much more than a hundred pounds.  Even with all the pieces laid out on tables, the BMW seems to be made of less parts than you'd need to put together a working motorcycle, let alone a touring model.

So far the only new piece purchased is the cafe racer seat in the photo.  Jeff intends to take a sawzall to the frame over the holiday break and then industrially clean all of the components before reassembling the cafe resurrected R100RT.

With the parts laid out it doesn't look like there's enough there to build a motorbike.  The R100 is an elegantly simple machine.

The home-made motorcycle stand is doing a fine job on its first big project.

That air cooled boxer engine is a piece of industrial art!

A naked R100RT frame prior to some modification.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

A New Roof

My favorite helmet company has come out with a new evolution of their unique helmet.  Lots of companies make a lifting visor helmet but what they don't tell you is that your swinging chin guard doesn't pass any safety standards; most of those modular motorcycle helmets only pass open face testing (as though there were no chin guard at all).  The Roof passes stringent safety tests as both an open AND closed face helmet making it a rarity in convertible lids.

I've been the happy owner of a Desmo for over a year now and it has surpassed expectations.  It's much better than any other helmet I've tried at handling turbulence in a straight-line and especially when you turn your head (it barely registers side winds at all).  It's as quiet as most closed faced helmets but can also be opened up when not travelling at high speed.  The visor lets you go from open face to jet to fully closed a second, one handed.

Roof has updated the Desmo to the RO32 Desmo with a variety of updates and improvements.  If I can find a retailer I'm in for the upgrade.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Daydreaming: Winter Road Trip to New Orleans & Key West

It's an 11 hour drive down to Knoxville, Tennessee from here.  If I took the bike that far south in a van to dodge the snowline, I could then do this!

With two weeks off over Christmas it'd break down like this:

Dec 24th: (van) Elora to Knoxville in the van 1147kms
Dec 25th: Knoxville to Talledega 271 miles the interesting way
Dec 26th: Talledega to New Orleans 420 miles
Dec 27th: New Orleans!
Dec 28th: New Orleans!
Dec 29th: New Orleans to Panama City 304 miles
Dec 30th: Panama City to Tampa  339 miles
Dec 31st: Tampa to Miami   252 miles
Jan 1st:   Miami!
Jan 2nd:  Miami to Key West to Miami   155 miles there and back
Jan 3rd:   Miami to Jacksonville via Daytona Beach 346 miles
Jan 5th:   Jacksonville to Greenville 388 miles
Jan 6th:  Greenville to Knoxville 212 miles via Deals Gap
Jan 6th:  (van) Knoxville to Dayton 304 miles 1/2 day
Jan 7th:  (van) Dayton to Elora 410 miles home mid-afternoon
Jan 8th:   chill out day before going back to work

Van mileage:  2300kms / 1440 miles
Bile mileage: 4500kms / 2812 miles

I could probably arrange with our Knoxville hotel to park the van somewhere safe and then head south on two wheels.  The Tiger could totally handle the job one or two up, but there would be more specialized tools I'd select if given a choice from the new 2017 bikes:

One Up 2017 Minimalist Bike Choice

Kawasaki's new Z900 looks like a lovely, light weight device to explore some corners with.  It's an upright bike that would be easy to sit on for long periods of time.  It's a minimal machine but that would be ideal for riding into the sub tropical climates down there.

It's a brand new machine but the Z650 it shares parts with already has some luggage bits that might work.  Keeping with the minimalist vibe, I'd try and do the whole 3000 mile / two week odyssey using only those two expandable panniers.  If I have to expand half way through I could always throw a tie down duffel bag on the back seat.

One Up 2017 not-remotely minimalist Bike Choice

The opposite of the tiny, lithe, naked Z900 is the absurd, over the top and abundantly present Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress.  It comes with its own panniers so that's not a worry.  It's also the kind of bike that would swallow many high mileage days in a row without batting an eyelash.  And it's so pretty.

Two Up Touring Preference

A large, comfortable bike that Max and I could ride the southern triangle on would be the goal here.  My default is always a Kawasaki Concours 14.  We rented a last gen model last year in Arizona and it was a rocket ship that was also big and comfortable for both of us.  The fact that it comes in candy imperial blue this year only encourages me to put it back at the top of the list again.

A more touring focused choice would be the Goldwing F6B which is a more stripped down version of the full on bells and whistles Goldwing.  It's a big, comfortable bike that is surprisingly nimble for what it is and comes with built in panniers.  It'd cover the miles with ease while keeping us both in excellent shape for when we arrived at each stop.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Winter Dreams: Sports Bikes and Dragons

Snow is flying outside.  It's supposed to be -20°C by the end of the week with more snow on the way.  Working on the bike in the garage only gets me so far.  Time for some quality daydreaming...

Goal:  Find a quick bike, ride the Dragon, bring it home to race in the spring.

Looking around online I found a wounded Kawasaki ZX-6R for sale in Clinton, Tennessee for about $3400US.  It happens to be off the interstate right on the way to Knoxville (the city nearest the Smokey Mountains where the Tail of the Dragon is).  I'm a sucker for a wounded motorcycle.  The store selling it says it needs tires and they sell 'em, so I'd arrange them to do it and a tune up and then pick the bike up ready to ride.

Fixing the fairing is a little trickier, but Performance Bikes UK had an article on cheap Chinese replacement fairings which would be perfect for a bike that's going to be all about track days and quick rides.

The only issue is whether or not I could get the bike road legal for a few days while I was down there in order to ride The Dragon.

A long drive to Clinton and a night in a hotel followed by a morning sorting out the bike and loading it into the van before driving down to Pigeon Forge for a few days riding the Smokey Mountains.

The slog back north into the frozen darkness would be a lot easier to take if I had a few days on two wheels before I had to do it.

Of course, if I'm getting a sports bike I can loose my mind on some sports bike kit.  If I'm on a quick Kawasaki I'd opt for gear that'd do me on track days as well...

Nothing like a little fantasy shopping to make the snow fly by.

Some colour matched gear to go with the new fairings and I'd be ready for race school in the spring.

Carbon fibre bits are also available for this ZX-6R, but if it's going to be a track bike they seem like a silly expense.

Saturday 10 December 2016

Naked Connie: 3d modelling customized motorcycle bodywork

I've re-3d-scanned the stripped down ZG1000 Kawasaki Concours in order to better work out what the rear lights will look like.  You can wheel in and out and manipulate that model below with a mouse.  The scanner did a bunch of software updates which led to a much higher resolution 3d image.

I modelled it with the stock seat on with an eye to taking the pillion seat off and building a very minimal back end.  With some careful cutting I'll be able to use the seat dimensions to figure out how best to render the rear light assembly.  I've been doing 2-d drawings but they don't deal with the 3d complexities of the real thing.  I'm hoping this solves that.

Using the 3d scanner with cardboard body panel templates gives you a pretty good idea of how it will look when it's done.

As far as electronic parts go, I think it's time to get the lights sorted out.  At the moment I'm looking at some integrated LED head and tail lights to minimize stalks sticking out of the bodywork.

A single brake and indicator unit from Amazon.
Integrated LED headlamp from Amazon.