Tuesday 19 February 2019

Performance and Practicality

I'm finding myself suddenly reading Practical Sportsbikes because the winter subscription I get to Performance Bike Magazine has migrated over as PB ends a three decade run and merges with their more practical (and I'm assuming more popular) child publication.  

I'm enjoying Practical Sportsbikes (they offered me a couple of back issues during the transition), though I miss some of the best bits from Performance Bikes like the Rutter comparison tests and the general focus on riding.  There is a rawness to Performance Bikes that sometimes reduces itself to the juvenile, but you can't deny their love of riding.  If the new combined publication can keep Performance Bike's active, athletic and obsessive focus on riding then I think I'll enjoy the new combination.

I've tried Practical Sportsbikes a few times but find it gets a bit lost in nostalgia driven mechanical minutia.  I've never been much of one for nostalgia, it's never as good as you remember.  Mechanics and practicality are all well and good too, but for me, for now at least, it's the visceral act of riding that should take centre stage.  If practicality was the primary motivation, I wouldn't ride a motorbike in the first place.

Here's hoping...
PB has always tapped racers and performance focused riders to shine a light on the act of riding, something they obviously love obsessively.  If the new magazine can combine that love with the mechanical sympathy needed to enable it, then I might be in for a whole year subscription instead of just using PB to get me through the neverending Canadian winter.

I usually look to BIKE Magazine for my joy of riding buzz.  This new publication might be able to give them a run for their money by offering a wider range of performance focused riding while still scratching that mechanical itch.

Here's hoping they find a way to balance the two into a monthly ode to the visceral art of motorcycle riding and graft of mechanical sympathy that enables it.

Sunday 10 February 2019

Bun Burning MotoGP

A few years ago we rode down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP.  It was a great few days in Indiana and it was pretty close to us.  At a push the ride there could be done in a day (we took two because I had my ten year old son with me).

This year's only North American MotoGP is in Texas and happens the weekend before Easter.  How few days could I do it in?  It just happens that Austin is a Bun Burner Gold away, just over 1500 miles south west of here.  I watched a couple of fellow motorcyclists from the Lobo Loco long distance rallies pull a Bun Burner Gold off in the fall.  If I could get to COTA in 24 hours I'd be a rockstar!

If I left on Thursday evening I'd be down there Friday evening or a bit later if I missed it (BBGs depend a lot on construction and delays to pull off).  Either way I'd be up Saturday morning with some kind of Iron Butt ride (if I missed the BBG there are half a dozen other, easier ones that I could still aim for) under my belt to catch qualifying.  Early to bed Saturday night and then another day at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday for the races.  After a good dinner I'd be back on the road again making tracks north to home.

If I missed the Bun Burner Gold on the way down, I could attempt it again on the way back!  Either doing a Sunday night to Monday night blitz to get the gold, or breaking it into two long days and going for a plain old Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles over 36 hours).

In a perfect world I'd do the BBG on the way down, enjoy the weekend and rest up again before getting a Bun Burner 1500 on the way back, riding Sunday night after the race as far as I can, having a sleep and then getting up and finishing the ride within 36 hours.  If I'm back Monday night I would have only missed two days of work while getting to watch a MotoGP live and picking up multiple iron butts!  That'd shake the rust off after a long, cold, Canadian winter.

Does two Iron Butt rides around a weekend of MotoGP sound extreme?  From the dark depths of February after weeks and weeks out of the saddle, it sounds like a brilliant idea!  When you're trapped under a polar vortex and some truly grim, neverending Canadian winter, the thought of trying to cross much of North America twice in five days on two wheels scratches an itch.

Slow motion through the esses at Indianapolis...

COTA has all sorts of pretty views for video and photography...

The long way down... and back.

Saturday 9 February 2019

Winter Maintenance: Triumph Tiger 955i Engine Guard Install and plasma cutting!

How cold has the polar vortex been?  So f#*%ing cold!  Our garage is attached to the house and we're in and out of it quite often, so it benefits from a lot of residual heat.  Even with this insulated garage with heating pipes in the attic and a lot of sympathetic heat from the attached house, the Tiger was a solid block of ice (pic on right shows it thawing) when I went in to attach mine Hepco & Becker motorschutzb├╝gel (engine guard) in schwarz (black).  I ended up giving up on the -36°C degree Saturday and went back when it was only -17°on Sunday.

I've been looking for ways to protect the Tiger as I aim for more off-tarmac activities with it, and an engine guard seemed like a good idea.  Finding such an engine guard for a European (at least until Brexit) bike that's sixteen years out of date isn't easy, but I came across the German manufacturer Hepco & Becker and then followed links to their American distributor, Motomachines, who happened to have just what I needed in stock and have no problems shipping to Canada.  They're also really quick to respond if you have any questions and give you quick, friendly, concise communication, I'll use them again.

It was about a week to get here through US and Canadian federal mail services and cost me another thirty bucks at the door in border fees, so all in I was at about $350US to get the thing into my hands.  It arrived well packaged and in new condition.  There was some surface rust on the threads into the pipes, but it cleaned up easily with WD40. 
Some German engineering for my British Bike, except Triumph was founded by a German immigrant, so it's kinda German already!  Bet that makes Brexiteers angry.
After not being able to feel my hands anymore despite propane heaters blaring away in the corner on Saturday, I finished the job on Sunday.  Holding the nuts on the back while securing the bolts is a bit fussy (these guards attach right to the engine frame mounts), and swearing increased trying to do it on a frozen bike, but I eventually got them sorted.

The guards are very sturdy and the welds on them are a thing of beauty.  They're low profile things that should protect the tank in case of a spill.  The finish on them is excellent and looks to be very long wearing.  With a couple of places to kick my feet up onto, they might help me stretch out my legs on a long ride too.  I'm tempted to throw some fold up highway pegs on them, but this aggravates the adventure bike image police.

I'm still some weeks (months, who am I kidding, though if I can't be optimistic in February I start to go bonkers) away from having a chance to ride with them, but they look good on the bike, got here pretty quickly and with a lot of quick and clear communication from Motomachines.  If you're looking for an engine guard for an older Tiger (or anything else, they have a big selection), I'd suggest heading over to their site and then get in touch with them on email, you'll hear back quickly from responsive customer service.

In completely different news, thanks to all of this lousy weather we've had a number of no-bus days at school which gave me a chance to ask our metal shop teacher to exercise his plasma cutter on my behalf.  I gave him a vector image of the Concours tail piece I wanted cut and the machine ripped through the aluminum I got for the job in about five seconds, cutting a perfect outline of the cardboard piece I'd wrapped around the tail section before unfolding.  This strange shape lines up with the frame bolts on back end of the bike and covers all the wiring and ugly bits in the most minimal way possible.  I'm going to form it over a wood buck and then paint it to match the tank.  That should take care of the back end of the Concours ZG1K custom project.

Now I need to get the carbs balanced and tuned and it should be good to go, which I intend to do as soon as the roads are clear... in, like, ten years.