Wednesday 31 May 2017

Custom Motorcycle Digital Art

What I've got here is a photo of my Triumph Tiger 955i taken as near to fully side on as I could manage it.  I then photoshoped into a outline (trace contour and some negative inversion along with some line cleanup did it).  I saved that image as a vector and shared it with my trusty technology design teacher at work.  She cleaned up the lines a bit (mainly simplifying them) so they could be cut into perspex using a computer controlled router.
I then got an Arduino micro-controller and cut a length of Adafruit neo-pixel leds to fit the length of the perspex.  I soldered some wires onto the neo-pixel led strip and wired them up to the Arduino.  I then installed the libraries to run the neo-pixel strip and ran the basic test pattern code on the Arduino.

This is the result:

With a bit of coding you could colour code the display to something specific or make different patterns.  The strip along the bottom is 9 leds long, so you could get pretty fancy with patterns if that floated your boat.  I've also seen Arduinos run like graphic equalizers, responding to music with different colours and patterns, so that's another option.

Metres long LED strips can be gotten cheap.  An Arduino can be had for less than $10 if you're cagey about it.  Three wires and a bit of perspex and you're ready to go.  I'd guess in raw parts it cost all of about ten bucks to put together, and that includes an Arduino that could do a lot of other things.  If you've got a customized bike, a clean photo and a bit of prep and you'd have a disco light version of your specific machine.


I 3d modelled the Tiger a while ago using a Structure Sensor.  It snaps on to an ipad and is very straightforward to use.  Once you've 'painted' in your 3d model using the lasers on the sensor you can clean it up in something like the 3d modelling software that is included in Windows 10.  Here is what an upload of that looks like on Sketchfab:

I used Meshmixer to clean up any missed pieces in the original scan and then dropped it into a Dremel 3d printer.  This printer is fairly cheap and low resolution, but the model came out ok.  What I'd really like to do is try and print it in something like the FormLabs Form2.  Their terminator style resin based laser prints are way higher resolution, so you don't get the blockiness that you see in the additive 3d print process.

You can see how blocky the print is on the clean / top side of the print (the Dremel printer makes up the plastic model like a wedding cake getting layered).  The bottom side with all the extra support pieces that I had to cut off after is much rougher.  Another benefit of the Formlabs printer would be no annoying structural supports to cut off.

Like the disco light above, what's nice about this is that it's a direct copy of my specific bike.  If you've got a custom ride, scanning it with the Structure Sensor and then printing it out on something nice like the Formlabs printer would mean a smooth, accurate scale model of your particular machine.

What would be even cooler would be getting my hands on a large format 3d printer, then I'd be making accurate 3d models of fairing pieces and going to town on them in 3d design software.  I still want to remake a sports bike with  textured dragon scale fairings!

Saturday 27 May 2017

Motorcyclist's Bridge to Nowhere

I'm enjoying the new format of Motorcyclist magazine.  It's one of the few US bike magazines I make a point of getting.  They write smart and with a Californian perspective that is very positive and engaging.  Their new graphics format is like nothing else out there.  They also take risks with their stories.  In many other magazines you feel like you're reading the same reviews and comparisons over and over again.  Motorcyclist is like Bike UK and what Cycle Canada used to be in that you know you're reading something unique.  I think that has a lot to do with them focusing on getting the best writers rather than the most industry connected people they can find.

In the last issue they had a bit on towing a dirt bike into the desert using another motorcycle.  It was a bit silly, kind of like a bridge to no where, but I could appreciate it from a more bikes is good perspective.  Having said that, I have to question the logic of trying to go car-less this way.  Towing a trailer means you've lost all the benefits of splitting lanes (try to imagine you're somewhere sensible like California) and, you know, riding a motorcycle.  They said at the end of the article that chucking the dirt bikes in the back of a truck instead of trailering them and towing them with two touring bikes would have been easier, but I think there is an even better way to make that all motorcycle ride into the desert.

Things you don't see anywhere else. It's a story of excess, exhaustion and a lot of motorcycles.

The KTM 690 Enduro weighs only a couple of dozen kilos more than the 250 dirt bikes used in the story.  You get great wind on it while on the highway, unlike the hot and sweaty touring bikes used, and best of all the KTM costs about $27,000 Canadian less than a CRF-250X and a Goldwing.  I bet it would take you across the sand and up the mountain they went to in the article as well.

It'll take your camping gear and you don't need to slavishly fulfill two motorcycle style requirements, so you can leave your ever so fashionable heavy leather touring gear behind.

That's a long, hot slog through the desert - two ways.

If the point of the exercise is to get out there and back on two wheels, something like the KTM would have done the business, though it might have been a bit less dramatic doing it.  The highways would have been full of wind blast and the nimbleness of two wheels rather than two towing two more.  The off road riding would have been mighty close to what the 250 dirt bikes could do, and you'd be doing it all cheaper and more enjoyably.

Having said all that, what a great thing it is to see an article so uniquely silly and full of excess.  I'm glad the editor let it happen.

The Swiss Army Knife KTM 690 Enduro.
... and the new ones are in!  If I had fifteen grand free I'd pop up to Ottawa and ride one back.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Astonishing Haliburton & Algonquin Roads, in the rain, with a fever!

Almost three hours into an interminable visit to the local walk-in clinic last Friday night I'm told that I'm over a hundred degrees, in terrible shape, but it's just a virus and I have to suffer through it.  I should go home, rest and feel better, except I can't because this is the Haliburton Birthday Weekend.  We're on the hook for a hotel that won't cancel a long weekend booking, even under a doctor's advice.

I go home, sleep poorly and take lots of pills.  The next morning I'm shaky and either sweating or freezing cold, so a perfect day to go for a three hundred plus kilometer ride across the province.  The original plan was to leave early and take my time picking off must-ride roads in the south end of the Haliburton Highlands before finally arriving at our hotel near the town of Haliburton.  That didn't happen.  Instead, I followed my wife and son in the car on the shortest possible route.  We stopped frequently and a sunny, relatively warm day meant it wasn't as miserable as it could have been.  We all fell into our room after five o'clock and collapsed.

I could have driven up in the car, but the whole point of the weekend was to ride the Highlands, so bike it was.  Sunday morning dawned overcast with heavy clouds.  The rain held off until I saddled up after a late but brilliant breakfast at the Mill Pond in Canarvon.  I was doped up on fever and flu medication and as good as I was going to get.  The plan was to wind up Highway 35 to 60 and then into Algonquin Park.  If the weather was atrocious or I fell apart physically I could always turn around, but if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it; turning around isn't in my nature.

I'd originally planned to stop often and use the new camera, but needs must and I was on a mission to complete that fucking loop.  The backup plan was to use the Ricoh Theta 360 camera on the fly.  It's a push button affair that is easier to use than a satnav.  Hit power, press the shutter button, put it away.  The tank bag that came with the Tiger has a handy little pouch at the front that fits the camera perfectly.  I'd never tried using the Ricoh by hand like that before, but it seemed like a good idea when my time on task was at a premium.  Since it takes in everything at once you don't need to worry about aiming or focusing it either.

Heading north out of Canarvon the rain closed in immediately.   On the upside, it was chasing away a lot of the holiday traffic, though this is Canada, so what you're looking at above was pretty typical for this ride... on a long weekend.

Highway 35 dodges and weaves around lakes and Canadian shield as it works its way up to meet 60.  If you're not blasting through the dynamited, rocky skeleton of Canadian Shield, you're winding your way around muskeg, never ending trees or scenic lake shores.  And it does all of this while being a bendy roller-coaster of a road.

The gas station in Canarvon was shut down, so I suddenly found myself running onto empty as I powered north into the big Canadian empty.  Fortunately, I came across a Shell station at the intersection with 60 and filled up.

By that point the rain was more steady than not, so I stepped into the rain suit and wove my way into Algonquin Park.  Suddenly the roads were full of people with GTA tagged SUVs all driving around aimlessly looking confounded by all the trees.  Throughout the entire loop Algonquin was the only time I was stuck in traffic.  I pulled in to the Visitor's Centre and had a coffee, stretched my legs and soaked up the ambience.  The lady at the counter was nice enough to give me ten cents off on my coffee because I didn't have change.

Fifteen minutes of crying babies and screaming kids and I was longing for the wind and silence of the road again.  The Visitor's Centre was near the half way point in the loop, and with a coffee in me (my first caffeine in days) I was ready to go all the way.  The weather was occasional spotty rain, so it wasn't as terrible as it could have been.  I was warm and dry in the rain suit and the drugs had beaten back the fever, so on I went.

I'd never been out the East Gate though I've been to Algonquin since I was a relatively new, ten year old immigrant to Canada.  It feels older than the West Gate, looking more like a toll booth than an art deco entrance to one of the biggest and most famous parks in the country.  Once out of the park traffic evaporated and I was once again alone in the woods.   I'd originally planned to head all the way over to the 523 for a wiggly ride south, but 127 cut off some kilometers and I was already feeling the hours in the saddle.  It was an empty trek down the 127 to Maynooth, albeit with some pretty scenery.

The rain came and went and I got so used to riding on twisty roads that it became second nature.  What would have been a ride to road where I live was just another road in Haliburton.  The Tiger spent very little time on the crown of its new Michelins.  I pulled up in Maynooth for a stretch before starting the final leg of the loop back over to Haliburton Village.

Strangely, and for the first time since the trip began, the roads dried up and the sun started poking through.  Up until now I'd been on local highways; fast, sweeping roads that, while curvy, were designed for higher speeds.  Out of Maynooth I took Peterson Road and got to enjoy my first local road with lots of technical, tight radius turns and elevation changes.  Peterson and Elephant Lake Roads were dry and a lovely change from the wet highways I'd been on before.

On a short straight between the twists on Peterson Road out of Maynooth.
Those 41 winding kilometres to
Pusey flash past in no time!
The local traffic was apparently very familiar with bikers making time through the area with several trucks pulling over and waving me through; some country hospitality on a long ride.  

The pavement continued to dry and the Tiger got friskier and friskier as I rode on to Pusey and then Wilberforce.  I was lucky to see another vehicle in either direction on this busy long weekend - just my kind of road trip.  No matter how sick I'm feeling there is nothing like a winding road and a motorbike to put a spring in my step.  For the first time on this ride I wasn't carefully monitoring my health and the weather, I was just enjoying being out in the world on two wheels.

The sun battled with clouds all the way under Algonquin Park and I soon found myself lining up for an approach back toward Haliburton, this time from the east.  Once again I elected to cut some extra miles out, forgoing a ride to Gooderham for the joys of the 118.

Swooping through the lake of the woods while leaning the ever eager Tiger around lakes, trees and rocky outcroppings had me in nirvana; it was like riding through a Group of Seven painting.  

By this point the drugs were wearing off, I'm starting to wilt and the deed is almost done.  The last few miles into Haliburton turn ominous as dark clouds fill the horizon and  the temperature drops.  I steel myself for the final push.

As the sky fills in and the rain starts to fall again, my goal is in sight.  I pass through the small town of Haliburton like a ghost and pull up just as house keeping has cleaned our room (the family is out at the pool).  Ten minutes later I've taken another round of drugs and I'm in a whirlpool tub getting the heat back into me.

The logic I followed doing this was:  any day on a motorcycle is a good day.  Even with a fever and a nasty virus I had a great ride and a real sense of satisfaction in completing my birthday loop of the Haliburton Highlands.  It would have been nice to do it without feeling like I'd been turned inside out, but hey, any day on a motorcycle is a good day.

The ride:  a 270 km loop through Algonquin Park and back around to the town of Haliburton.  All told I was on the road for about four and half hours, including a gas stop, a coffee at the Algonquin Visitor's Centre and a leg stretch in Maynooth.

The camera: a Ricoh Theta SC.  It takes two hemispherical photos in both directions and then stitches them together, which makes the camera disappear in any photos it takes - which is pretty freaky.  

Having all hardware buttons, you don't have to futz around with a smartphone to interface with it like you do with the Fly360.  As a camera to use while photographing a motorcycle ride it doesn't come much easier than this.  It'll do video and save it in 360 format so you can look around in the video on a smartphone.  It does the same thing with photos.  

The photos in this piece were opened in the Ricoh software and then screen captured.  That's how I cropped images to show various things.   The original, unedited photos are pretty funky (see below), but look good with some judicious cropping.

Where we stayed:  The Pinestone Resort just south of Haliburton.  The prices are reasonable and you get a nice room.  The facilities are good with golf on site (if you care about that sort of thing) and a salt water pool and sauna.  The onsite restaurant had us waiting 90 minutes (in my case for a French onion soup and salad) and isn't cheap.  Eating elsewhere might be a good idea, especially on a busy weekend, but anything else is at least a ten minute drive away in town.  We stayed there last summer on our ride back from The Thousand Islands and it was good - they seemed to have trouble handling the traffic on a long weekend this time around though.
Standing on the side of the road
futzing with a smartphone interface.

360Fly:   The one benefit of the Fly is it's more weather proof than the Theta, so I set it up on the tachometer of the Tiger in light rain and left it recording a time lapse video of the ride from Maynooth to Haliburton - it's about an hour or riding compressed into 20 seconds.  The much fiddlier smartphone connected Fly wasn't ideal for a ride like this, unless I was going to set it and forget it, like I did.  It also doesn't take a full 360 video, it only has one eye unlike the two on the Theta.

Thursday 18 May 2017

Halliburton Highlands Birthday Holiday

A birthday long weekend riding holiday... based out of the Pinestone Resort in Haliburton (so easy access to the Haliburton Highlands Riding Roads).

The Ride Out:

Haliburton Highlands Research:

The Dynamite Loop:

Possible Sunday Loop:

The Ride Home:
283kms with a stop at The Millpond Restaurant for breakfast.

Total kilometres:  926 over three days

The weather:

Sunday's going to make for some nice, rainy photographic opportunities.

Monday 8 May 2017

Motorcycle Tires and When to Change Them

I went for a ride with Jeff the motorcycle Jedi and Wayne, the parts guy from our local dealer, the other week.  It was a 250km round trip out to the shores of Lake Huron and back.  Since we were all on multi-purpose bikes we multi-purposed some of it:

Taking some winding back roads through the countryside we came across such natural wonders as deep mud holes and a lady sun bathing topless on her front lawn; it was a nice ride.

We stopped at one point and Wayne noticed the rear tire on the Tiger wasn't doing very well.  Coming from cars I'm used to using depth gauges on tread to determine a tire's remaining life.  Car tires burn through tread fairly evenly due to equally delivered lateral forces.   Bike tires are undergoing a whole different kind of physics.  You can expect to see fairly even tread wear on a car tire because of those lateral forces.  Bike tires tend to wear from the middle out because the crown of the tire takes the brunt of the wear, especially in flat and straight South Western Ontario.

Wayne pointed out tears down the middle of the rear tire on the Tiger that I hadn't even thought to look for.  As you can see, the tread on the edges of the tire is still quite deep, but the wear in the centre is so deep it's turning up the metal bands in the tires:

Those are some expensive  pieces of wire poking through...
This prompted a call to my local dealer to try and get the bike in - they told me it's over a month wait!  I offered to remove the tires and they said they'd try and squeeze them in.  Fortunately it rained a flood the next couple of days and with some cancellations I got a call a day later saying the tires were done.

The bill was a staggering six hundred and ninety three dollars - for two motorcycle tires on rims that had been removed from the bike (so minimal shop work involved).  I'm looking over the bill now.  Looking up the Michelin Anakees I purchased online, the dealer prices aren't crazy - about twenty bucks more than the online cost for the front and fifteen bucks more for the rear.  There is a cost associated with a local dealer keeping this sort of thing in stock and I've got no problem with that.  With that being the case these two tires came to a staggering five hundred bucks.  By comparison, Corvette ZR1 Michelin tires - very high tech, huge rubber for a faster than light car - cost about three hundred bucks a pop (and include road hazard warranty).  Motorcycle tires must be made out of platinum and unicorn horns - they are wickedly expensive!

The dealer prices on labour were also perfectly reasonable - about a hundred bucks to install and balance both new tires (with inner tubes).  So the lesson learned here is that motorcycle tires are wickedly expensive.  Even with perfectly reasonable labour costs at my local dealer I'm still out nearly seven hundred bucks for a set of new tires.

Fortunately the Anakees seem to be a very long wearing tire, so hopefully I won't be looking to replace them again for a while.  They ride great - much quieter than the Metzelers that they replaced, and the grip in dry has been very trust inducing.  They might have cost me  a mint, but they look like they might be worth it.

Anakee Review:  it's a road biased ADV tire (I'm ok with that - they feel great), it is long lasting, and it can handle light off road work, which is all I'd do on the big Tiger anyway.

US prices are marginally better... $336 for the tires (instead of $500+ in Canada).  $336US is about $461CDN - and that's an online price vs. a dealer price.  The online Canadian price is only a couple of bucks different.

Looking up prices in the US - most dealers will do a tire change for $20 a wheel if the wheels are off (that's $55CDN)