Friday 21 August 2020

Motorcycle Riding in Ontario: It Was The Worst of Times, It Was The Best of Times

I managed an 800+ kilometre loop through Southwestern and Central Ontario over the weekend.  The ride out and the ride back four days later were distinctly different, though they did have one thing in common:  gravel companies with little regard for public safety.

I began early on Thursday morning hoping to beat the heat, but even a 9am departure had me sweating in humidity fuelled mid-thirties temperatures.  On Fergus/Orangeville Road heading into Orangeville a gravel truck decided to drive into oncoming traffic so he could have a chat with his buddy pulling up on a side road.  He cut it so close the old couple in the Cadillac at the front of our group left ABS intermittent skid marks on the road and almost got rear ended by the guy behind them in an F150 who was too busy texting to notice events unfolding.  This is the second time an employee of Greenwood Aggregates/Construction has been a pain in the ass for us.  Last time it was a fist sized lump of gravel that cost us a $500 deductible to get the windshield replaced in my wife's car.  This time around I was in full-biking-radar-paranoia-mode, so I saw the whole thing unfolding and made myself some space by moving to the shoulder so the guy behind me didn't run me down in the heavy braking.  It'd be nice if the OPP spent a little time observing misdemeanours by Greenwood Aggregate drivers on the Orangeville/Fergus Regional Road 3.  If they can't take other road users' safety into consideration, perhaps they should have their licence revoked.

Rather than continue to enjoy the chaos of the busy-for-a-Thursday-morning regional road, I ducked onto a gravel side road (a benefit of riding the Tiger) and took the back route around to the bypass.  Being clear of traffic, even on loose, recently graded gravel always feels so much better than riding with jumpy, unpredictable pillocks in their boxes.  Bigger the box, bigger the pillock, and these days everyone drives the largest possible thing they can find.

I've been working on the Tiger's recent stalling issue, and thought I had it licked, but it stalled on me after getting gas in Mono Mills in the middle of a highway intersection, so I was on edge.  It did it again while making a left turn off Highway 9.  The key to my survival as a motorcyclist is my ability to respond to traffic quickly with awareness and agility.  A bike dying on me in the middle of an intersection feels the exact opposite as it suddenly makes me vulnerable and immobile; it feels like betrayal.  Some people online have suggested just riding around the issue, but I think that's absurd.  If you're riding something that can leave you dead in the middle of a turn, that's not something to ride around, it's something to fix.

Now truly fraught and soaking in sweat, I pulled over to get my shit together on a tiny side road before getting onto the 400 Highway.  My new COVID normal is to find a shady spot and have a stretch, a comfort break and a drink.  I pulled over onto Side-road 4 which had zero traffic and re-centred myself.  It was a lovely stop in a quiet farming area.  No sound of traffic and only the breeze stirring the trees and corn.  It was a Zen ten minutes that let me get my head on straight again.

The 400 north was surprisingly busy for a late Thursday morning, but was moving at warp speed anyway.  The inside lane was averaging 120km/hr.  I dropped into the flow after passing a cruiser parked under the overpass I used.  I guess he was only looking for people doing 160+.  By now the air temperature was well into the high thirties and the oppressive humidity had it feeling in the forties.  Even at speed on the highway I was always sweating.  I got to Barrie in next to no time only to discover that a single lane reduction at the Essa Road exit meant that the me-first GTA crowd had backed up traffic for 20 minutes because they all have to be first.  Massive trucks and SUVs (few people drive cars in Canada any more) were pulling out onto on ramps and burning to the end before trying to butt in ahead of where they were.  Being Ontario, I couldn't filter through and ended up sitting on sixty degree tarmac for the better part of twenty minutes in stop and go traffic under a relentless sun surrounded by air conditioned cagers who were making it even hotter, with a bike that stalled if I let go of the throttle.

I finally got clear of Barrie and things were once again moving at warp speed, with trucks towing boats passing me at 40km/hr over the limit.  Ontario highways are truly something special; a hybrid of Mad Max and a never ending grocery store line up of the biggest jackasses you've ever met.  But I was now clear of Barrie and Orillia and only had the wide open spaces of the north to look forward to.  I was evaporating sweat so much a cloud was probably forming above me, but at least I was in motion, until I wasn't.

Ten kilometres outside of Gravenhurst traffic came to a sudden stop again.  Why?  Ontario refuses to widen the bypass around Gravenhurst onto Highway 11, and we all know how GTA traffic likes to merge with grace and efficiency, so things had come to a stop, again.  At this point I was deep into fuck-it territory.  My plan to get up to the lovely 118 and cross over the Haliburton Highlands and down to my wife's family's cottage near Bobcaygeon was starting to smolder in a dumpster.  After sitting next to a Shell station for a couple of minutes on baking asphalt, I pulled in and looked at the map.  Oddly, the Tiger was now holding idle.  The ECU learns how to set idle when you reset it with a new fuel map, so maybe the Tiger had learned how to solve its own stalling?  I should be so lucky.

Gravenhurst Traffic
Early Thursday afternoon GTA traffic into Gravenhurst where all the citiots have to all go to the same place at the same time, all the time.  The old fella at the gas station told me it'd be a 40 minute stop and go to get through it on fifty degree tarmac.  Bigger is always better in the cager crowd.  See many cars in there?  Trucks and SUVs, all the better to hit you with while ensuring your own safety!

I had a look at the map and thought that Washago and south around Lake Simcoe and over to Kinmount would at least get me out of attempting a route that thousands of people in giant vehicles from the GTA were plying.  Highway 11 has lots of turnarounds to go south, which I've always found odd until today.  I was quickly able to get on the empty highway south and found myself back in Washago and heading down an empty 169 and then east on an equally empty 45.  The temptation is to say Ontario is under-funding infrastructure, and it is to a degree, but the real issue is the group think in the most overpopulated area of Canada, which I have the misfortune of living near.

Changing my mind on where I was going changed the ride.  I'd been aiming for unfamiliar roads, but that's not something easy to find in summer of pandemic.  The Tiger seemed to have changed its mind too.  At the odd stops at lights it was suddenly idling steadily and the pickup on throttle and vibes at speed felt better than they used to.  I guess the ECU had finally worked out the new fuel map.  I was still dehydrated and cooked, but I was on winding roads with almost no traffic.  Unfortunately, these were the same winding roads I'd taken last month to the cottage.  
I stopped in Kinmount because I'd done that last time and knew they had a public washroom in the park.  After another comfort break and as much water as I could neck, I sorted out the 360 camera and headed toward Gooderham on the 503 for a roller-coaster ride down the 507 and then into the cottage; this was the good bit coming up.

The sun was getting low behind me and I early evening was upon us.  I got to Gooderham just past 5pm and headed south on the 507, the Tiger feeling better than it had in months.  Just south of town I saw the inevitable sign:  CONSTRUCTION.  Unreal.  I'd just busted my hump for hundreds of kilometres of Ontario tedium and the highlight is dug up.

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

After some kilometres of gravel, some of it ankle deep because they're in the middle of resurfacing, I
got back onto the pockmarked but paved 507 and proceeded south.  The long shadows meant the worst of the heat was off me and I soon found myself in Noogies Creek, working my way into some of Ontario's prettiest wilderness.

The 14kms up Bass Lake road goes from two lane gravel fire road to a winding, single lane gravel fire road quickly before ending at the lake.  Ten minutes later I was neck deep in it washing off a day of sweat and frustration.



Four days later I was saddling up just past 11am for the return trip.  My cunning wife suggesting doing the 118 route backwards on the way home since no one from the GTA would be going that way.  To make it even better, it was a humidity free 22°C on a Monday morning.  The Tiger still had almost half a tank, so I skipped cutting back to Bobcaygeon and headed east toward the 507 on Peterborough Regional Road 36.

I was approaching the turn north on to the 507. Quarry Bay Stone was just up the road and a gravel truck had just pulled out fully loaded and was ramming it up through the gears heading westbound towards the group of traffic I was in.  Bucketfuls of gravel were pouring out of this piece of shit truck as it approached us, bouncing down the road at 150km/hr closing speed.  Remember the Millenium Falcon in the asteroid storm in Empire?   Now I know how the ship felt.  I was lucky to be able to duck behind the truck and car ahead of me.  I imagine both vehicles are looking at body damage and broken windshields.  I got whacked on the shin hard enough to knock my leg off the peg.  That's another win for my awesome, armoured Macna motorcycle trousers.  Not only are they cooler than any other pant I've tried, but they also prevented me from getting a broken shin and/or severe lacerations on my leg.

When I realized how many rocks were coming at me and at such a high speed I put my head down and my new-this-year Roof Desmo RO32 took the impact for me right on the crown.  The rock was big enough to ring my bell, but had I not ducked it would have hit me at neck level, which might have been fatal.  Other sharp bits of gravel clattered off my road side pannier and I got a big scuff on my front fender, but otherwise the Tiger dodged the rocks.  I glanced back to see more bucketfuls of gravel skipping down the road, bouncing off the vehicles behind me.  The road was covered in it.  The next day at home I thought about what happened and came to the conclusion: fuck those guys.  It's their responsibility to operate safely on public roads, and they aren't doing that.  That this happened with two aggregate companies suggests that industry has a real fuck-you attitude to the rest of the citizenry who are using public roads.  It made me angry enough to make an online report with the OPP.  It's two days later and I haven't heard anything, but I'm not holding my breath  They're probably too busy trying to figure out what to do with all their pay raises.

This is one of those things you don't think about so much at the time.  I wasn't bleeding too much and the bike was ok, so I kept going.  I wasn't about to chase the truck down and I was too shocked to pull into the gravel yard.  I would have just flipped out on someone in any case.  Biking requires a sense of inevitability and fate.  You control what you can and live with what you can't.  Glad I did the report though; fuck those guys.

The 507 was virtually empty and cool as I made my way north.  Being a week day I suspected they'd be working on the road and soon enough I came to the edge of the construction.  I had a nice chat with the girl doing traffic control and was soon off.  Since they were laying tarmac they'd just put down a thick layer of sand and gravel, so thick my front tire disappeared into it and the Tiger bucked.  Thanks to recent SMART training my wrist did what it was supposed to do instead of involuntarily grabbing the brakes, which would have been bad.  The Tiger leaned back on its haunches and the Michelin Anakees bit into the loose material and launched us through the wave of loose material.  My feet never even left the pegs and I like to think I looked like I knew what I was doing.  The guy behind me on a Harley wasn't so lucky.  Legs all over the place before he ploughed it to a stop.  He then cut across the road to the tire tracks and then continued slowly up the verge.

The construction was soon behind me and then so was Gooderham.  I'd taken Haliburton County Road 3 to Haliburton a few years ago when I did a birthday ride through Algonquin Park, and knew it was a good one.  It's not as long as the 507, but at least as twisty and in much better shape; it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride through cool, noon-time air with thermoclines down by the lakes that I could both smell and feel.

I got to Haliburton still reading above empty.  This new fuel map was richer and smoother than the stock map, so I'd expected worse mileage, but because I'm not asking for more throttle and what I did use was smooth and effective, my mileage was actually better.  I figured there would be a gas station in Haliburton on the 118, but I passed through and found nothing.  I was far enough out of town that riding back didn't appeal, so I pushed on to Carnarvon figuring there had to be a gas station there as it's at the intersection of two major highways, but there was no gas in Carnarvon either, so I ended up ducking down the 35 to Mindin to get gas as the gauge fell into the red.  I was able to put 19 litres in, so I still had the better part of 5 litres in the tank when I filled up.  I'd have tried for Bracebridge if I'd have had a jerry can with me just to see what the run-to-empty is on the new and improved Tiger.  As it was I was over 400kms into that tank and think I still had another hundred in it (the Tiger has a big 24 litre tank).  That had us rocking a 4.22 L per 100 km / 55.71 mpg consumption figure, which means I'm beating a Prius, and that's without riding for mileage.

Brimming with gas I rode back north to 118 with more vigour than I'd come south.  The Tiger was idling so well I'd forgotten to keep checking on it, and the new fuel map was giving it a spring it had been missing.  Passing a cement truck (front wheel getting light as I wound it up through third) onto the 118, we found ourselves rolling through muskeg and ancient stone as the road took fast sweepers left and right around the Canadian Shield.  At one point a couple had pulled over and were slowing traffic (which was just me) because a snapping turtle was making its way across the highway.  He was a dinosaur amongst dinosaurs.  Easily a forty pounder with a giant, spikey tail.  I'm not sure how old they get (the interwebs say they can approach fifty years old); this was an apex predator snapping turtles.

Having circumnavigated the turtle safely, the Tiger burst off down the road with a snarl.  I saw no traffic until I was within twenty kilometres of Bracebridge.  The 118 twists and turns so much there are few places to pass, so soon enough a pile of us were behind a lovely old couple enjoying their leisurely motoring afternoon in a large American automobile.  I managed to squeeze out a pass on the only broken line and then enjoyed clear sailing all the way in to Bracebridge, which is much bigger than I remember it, looking more like a Toronto suburb with big box stores than the remote Ontario town it used to be.  Maybe it's all our fates to one day be living in identical subdivisions all doing the same things at the same time while staring at the same box stores.

Bracebridge was a bit of a faff, with more lights and traffic than any other part of the trip, then I was clear of it and off to Port Carling.  One of my first long rides on the Tiger was with my son across Ontario when we first got it in the summer of 2016.  Back then we had a great stop at a lovely coffee shop and had chats with lots of people at the local tourism office.  Port Carling is a lovely little town, but COVID has taken its toll.  The coffee shop was gone, and the rest of the place was mostly closed, though this might have been a Monday thing as much as a COVID thing.

I ended up skipping town and stopping COVID-style at an empty side road in the shade for a comfort break and a granola bar and as much water as I could take on.  I'd been hoping for a hot lunch, but hot lunches are few and far between in 2020.

The ride south to Bala was trafficky but moved well.  I'd never taken the 38 west to the 400 out of Bala and was surprised to learn it passes through Mohawk land.  It was a nice ride on interesting roads which I spent mostly behind a couple of native one-percenters (badged vests and all) on Harleys.  They gave me a wave when they pulled over to their clubhouse which was nice, a lot of the too-cool-for-school cruiser types don't bother with the biker wave.

The 400 was what every highway should be:  lite traffic moving like it means it.  Traffic was cruising at 120 in the slow lane.  I flashed south to Horseshoe Valley Road in a matter of minutes.  It was 80kms of quick moving but with zero headaches because I bailed before Barrie.  Horseshoe Valley Road was doing culvert repair (a lot of government COVID support has been going into needed infrastructure updates, which is no bad thing).  It was only about a ten minute wait and I was off again.  I remembered the Strongville bypass and took back roads to Creemore where I made my last stop by the Mad River where it gets its name tumbling down the Niagara Escarpment for the last of my water, then it was the final hour and a bit home, but now I was back in the Tiger's natural hunting range on familiar roads.

Other than being pelted by another anti-social gravel company, it was a lovely ride back.  Mostly empty roads and in much more humane temperatures.  The Tiger ran like a top, not a single stall, and feels like a new thing with its software update.  I'd been having anxiety about it on this trip, but it's a multi-dimensional thing that can do everything from single lane tracks in the woods to superhighways.

I'm back home again for a few days for work conferences (all remote), before we're forced back into classrooms by a government that seems to have no idea what it's doing.  In the meantime though, I have two working bikes in the garage and the rest of the short Canadian riding season to enjoy them.  Life is good.



I've got vegvisir (viking runic compass) to prevent getting lost (and survive storms, perhaps including gravel ones), and a modern binding rune for good fortune in travel (the top one).  Online suggested that the modern binding rune doesn't have any real magic in it because it's a modern thing, which I find funny (magic?  really?).

Here's some perverse atheist logic for you: I don't have to believe in these things for them to work.  If they do work and they are why a hail of gravel missed killing me, then I'm annoyed because my technique should have been what saved me, not a rune.  One of the reasons I don't like religious thinking is because it takes success away from you.  I'd rather own my wins and losses directly.

Why would an atheist put runes on their motorbike?  (these are on my hand guards).  I like honouring my norse heritage with the first one, and the fact that I spent a cold winter day hand painting these on there is a form of mindfulness.  Even when I'm not riding, I'm thinking about what's important when out on two wheels:  knowing where I'm going and getting there safely.  These aren't examples of magical thinking, they're examples of psychological discipline... and I didn't get maimed by gravel because of situational awareness and defensive riding techniques.  Unseen magical forces had no more to do with that than they did cause the gravel in the first place.  That kind of thinking is turtles all the way down.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Triumph Tiger 955i Engine Remapping

There are a number of posts on this blog about working out the kinks in my 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i,
this is another one.  I've been playing with the Tuneboy engine management software that came with the bike, which works well, is put together well and is easy to use.  In working with the Tuneboy kit I discovered TUNEECU, a more open-source option for programming your own engine maps.

If you've never wrapped your head around engine maps, they're not very complicated.  Tuneboy does a good job of explaining how it works in their primer that comes with their software.

Back in the day you had a carburetor that used screws and jets to set the amount of fuel that got metered into the engine.   If you changed altitude you had to start swapping hard parts (usually the jets that sprayed fuel) to keep the bike running right, and sooner than later you had to manually trim the whole thing to keep it running right.  Electronic fuel injection took that all away.  A computer under the passenger seat on the Tiger takes inputs from sensors in the air-box (barometric pressure), in each of the three injectors , the fuel pump, radiator (engine temperature) and a crankcase sensor to constantly adjust things to use the most effective amount of fuel to make the bike go.  Put another way, carburetors are a mechanical, low resolution solution to feeding fuel into an engine.  Electronic fuel injection is a responsive, high resolution fix to the problem of delivering the right amount of fuel to a motor.

Tuneboy map editor - you can change settings and tell
the ECU (electronic control unit) what to do under
certain circumstances.

A fuel map is a spreadsheet of numbers.  Sensors feed the computer what RPM the engine is turning at and how much throttle is being asked for and based on the number in the fuel map, the computer delivers a set amount of fuel.  The 'fuel map' is literally a map that directs the computer to deliver a set amount of fuel.  If you're at high RPM and have just shut off the throttle, a smart EFI system will cut fuel delivery entirely, saving both fuel and emissions, something a carb couldn't manage.  If you suddenly give the bike a handful of throttle at low RPM, the map will direct the fuel injectors to deliver an optimal amount of fuel as it picks up speed, whereas a carb will always just send a mechanically set amount of fuel based only on how much wrist you're giving it.

In Tuneboy's system, you can change fueling and ignition maps, and modify things like idle speeds. The issue has been that the only maps I can find for Tuneboy are the stock ones from Triumph, which were set up to favour fuel economy and emissions over smoothness and drive-ability.  Meanwhile, TUNEECU (if you can navigate their 90's style web design and atrocious apostrophe use) offers you modified tunes that can smooth out your lumpy OEM map.

Of special interest to me were custom edits that made the list and have been on there for 9 years.  I don't know who Deano from South Africa/SA_Rider is, but they know their stuff.  The map on there does wonders for your Tiger's smoothness and pickup.  It might use a bit more fuel if you're heavy handed, but the difference in motor operation is impressive and worth it.

I was unable to find a digital tool to transpose the HEX files from TuneECU into my Tuneboy DAT format, so I opened up the modified HEX file and transposed the numbers over to the Default Tuneboy 10120 Triumph engine map and resaved it.  You can find that modified Tuneboy DAT file with the TuneECU South African mode here.

Finding this stuff isn't easy, and it's only getting harder as these old bike recede into the past, so I'm hoping this post help you find what you need to get your Tiger purring again.  It did wonders for mine.

Even though the old vacuum pipes held vacuum, I swapped them out for some similarly sized clear fuel line I had (you can see them going from above each injector to the idle stepper motor.  The TUNEboy software also comes with a diagnostics tool (with very cool 90s graphics!) that lets you test the radiator fan, idle stepper motor (which moves up and down modulating the vacuum in that black thing to the left/bottom in the picture) and the RPM gauge.


You can find TUNEboy here:
It comes with a cable that'll connect to your Triumph and is easy to get going, and comes with all the stock tunes.  It also lets you tune on a dyno, if you're minted.  It ain't cheap, but the minted guy who bought my bike new was, so he sprung for it and I'm still enjoying his largess over a decade later.

TuneECU can be found here:  Try to get past the out of control apostrophe use - they're better at software than they are at the speaking English goodly.
The older version is free, but finicky with Windows' old serial port drivers.  You can buy the app on the Android store for fifteen bucks, which seems perfectly reasonable.  You can then connect via bluetooth from a phone or Google tablet, though I understand you miss some connectivity that way.

It gets tricky these days finding the On Board Diagnostics (OBD) serial cable you need to connect the bike to the PC.  You can buy 'em from the UK, where people like fixing things.  CJ Designs in Wisconsin will sort you out with one too:

The modded engine maps for Triumphs on TuneECU can be found here:

The TuneECU page goes into detail about how you might use the TUNEboy cable, but it requires so much messing around with knocking default Windows drivers out of the way and forcing others on that I wouldn't bother (I didn't).

Sunday 2 August 2020

Tiger Brains

The other day I was once again going over the details on the Tiger after taking the tank of for the billionth time.  Even though the stock pipes for the vacuum controlled idle system for the electronic fuel injection hold vacuum when I test them, I can't test that when they're on the bike, so they might be leaking where they join.  I happened to have some fuel line in the right size, so I've taken out the Triumph hoses and put these clear ones on instead to isolate another possible point of failure.

Once I got them in I fired up the TUNEBOY software and figured I'd run the idle control system test since it would move the plunger up and down and with everything off I could check to see that it's all working as it should,  except the ECU wouldn't connect to the computer.  I've done dozens of TUNEBOY adjustments now and know how the bike syncs with the PC over the serial port, but it wasn't connecting.  While trying some variations I turned the ignition on on the bike and the ECU made unfamiliar popping noise, and then none of the dash lights would come on (the running lights still do though).  The ECU no longer clicks off when the ignition is switched off either, which suggests it's not coming on either.

The intermittent nature of this failure always made my ass twitch in terms of it being electronic rather than mechanical.  Mechanical failures tend to be more consistent and easier to diagnose, and I've replaced everything around the idle control system now, so unless Triumph sold me a dickey idle control motor, which seems unlikely since the first one lasted 17 years and did over seventy-six thousand hard, Canadian kilometres and survived seventeen -40°C Canadian winters.  Assuming all the new parts are working as they should, an ECU that was losing the plot is as likely a culprit as anything else I've been chasing, and now it seems to have popped entirely.

So what do you do when your old Triumph's bike brain loses the plot?  Get another, I guess.  Used ones seems to be extraordinarily expensive and look to be in rough shape out of US used parts suppliers on eBay.  And for some reason they're charging twice what European suppliers are for shipping.  With that and the fact that The States seem like they're on the edge of a civil war, I think I'll be looking to the dependable Germans who have COVID19 well managed for a replacement Tiger brain.  If I'm thinking that, I wonder how many other people are avoiding business with the US right now.

But before I go that far, I'm a G.D. computer engineering teacher, so I'm hardly going to let an ECU go in the bin without having a go at it first.  If this is a short or something simple, I can solve that easily enough.  If nothing else I can see how the ECU is set up architecturally, but more often than not I'm able to get electronics I have to open up working again.  Time to flex my soldering prowess.

The most frustrating part about this is that I may well have solved the idle problem with replacement hoses, or maybe I didn't.  Maybe I chased down all of these hoses and parts for nothing and it was the ECU losing the plot all along.  Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) is a wonderful thing, but the early systems were fragile.  There a lots of posts online about early Triumph EFI headaches, and I've added to them.

Guy Martin does a good special called The Last Flight of the Vulcan Bomber.  They grounded the last of these nuclear bombers in 2015 because they no longer had the expertise and technology too keep them safely air worthy.  In the show Guy talks about why there are plenty of older planes like Spitfires still flying when the Vulcan has to be grounded.  He says the Spitfire was made from bicycle parts you could fabricate in a shed, so they're relatively easy to maintain.  The Vulcan was an industrial machine with early electrical and electronic systems that were many times more complicated.  He goes on to talk about how the Vulcan looked like it came from another planet when only seven years earlier an Avro Lancaster was the state of the art.  There are performance advantages in these leaps forward, but there are also maintenance headaches that mean these early jets will never fly again.

Early fuel injected bikes are a lot like that Vulcan - they can do things earlier bikes can't like get better mileage, not need parts changed to ride at altitude and generally require less maintenance.  I just fixed up one of the last carbureted bikes, a 1997 Honda Fireblade, over the winter.  EFI was around then, but Honda wisely went for highly evolved carburettors rather than new, fragile and poor performing EFI systems.  I rebuilt the carbs, which are a complex but highly evolved four-carb set, and the bike runs like a Swiss (or rather Japanese) watch.  The EFI on the Tiger did the job without any attention for 17 years and seventy-six thousand kilometres including two rides into the Rockies - something no carburetor could do, but when it finally broke, boy did it break.  It's things like this that will make these first generation EFI bikes rare in the future.  Like the Vulcan, they're so complicated and difficult to maintain when they go wrong that they'll get retired from service where an older, simpler bike might still be fixable.


There are early Triumph EFI issues aplenty online:

Used Parts, not of the vintage I'm looking for though:
Wahay!  A new ECU is two-grand, AMERICAN!  That's over $2500 Canadian!  The whole bike cost me three grand.  See what I mean about the costs of keeping emerging, fragile old tech active?

Moonbeam and Back: An In-Ontario Iron Butt & a Bike to Do It

The mighty Wolfe Bonham did a Moonbeam run this year as a part of one of his mega well-beyond an Iron Butt long distance rides.  I just popped it into Google maps and it happens to be a perfect first Iron Butt distance from home, and all in the province.

The starting Iron Butt is the Saddlesore 1000, 1000 miles in 24 hours.  They have a metric equivalent Saddlesore 1600 kilometre ride too.  The suggestion is to do a distance that can't be short cutted for credibility's sake.  Riding from Elora to Moonbeam and back is always going to be over 1600kms, no matter how you do it.  Another benefit is that by going up on Highway 11 through North Bay and back through Sudbury and on the 400, I won't be riding the same route twice.

The Tiger has become fragile, so I'm jonesing for a long distance weapon, not that the vibey and exposed Tiger was ideal for that, but it's what I had.  A few years ago Max and I rented a Kawasaki Concours14 for a ride in the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona, and it was a glorious thing.  That Connie was a first gen C14, the newer ones have one of the highest load carrying capacities of a modern bike - so big that they could carry Max and I two-up again.  Another thing about getting back into Connie ownership (I used to own a C10), is that I'd have an excuse to frequent the Concours Owners Group again.

There is a low mileage (31k) 2010 current generation C14 for sale in Toronto with some cosmetic damage and a dodgy windshield.  I can sort out the niggles, and then this thing would eat miles like nothing I've had before.  There is a strange lack of Kawasaki Heavy Industries motorbikes on the Iron Butt finisher's list (Honda has six times more bikes, BMW over eight times more).  I want to represent!  I've owned more Kawis than any other brand to this point, so it'd also be coming home to team green.

This particular one is blue instead of tedious grey (Concourses tend to be very conservatively coloured), which appeals, I prefer a colourful bike.  The C14 has a number of optional touring pieces, including a variety of windshields, which is good because the slab on that Concours ain't comely.

Love the Milano from Guardians of the Galaxy.  The C14
would be getting similar higher visibility trim, especially
around those Testarosa strakes!
Fortnine has the National Cycle Vstream windshield for the C14, which would give me a smaller but more functional, better made and swoopier look.  The bike comes with a top box and panniers, so there isn't too much it'd need, other than sorting out the windshield and doing some touch up.  Seeing a blue bike, I immediately want to liven it up with some orange trim, Milano style.  Other than a full service and a few fixes, this bike is ready to do 100k.

The stock seat is already a comfortable thing, though I've enjoyed the Corbin on the Tiger so much I'd consider tapping them again for another custom saddle eventually.  The C14 Concours would be the biggest bike I've owned and could do something nothing in the garage can do right now, carry my son and I two-up while operating within the bike's weight capacity.  It would also be just what I need to make a run to Moonbeam and back in 24 hours as the summer winds up.

Saturday 1 August 2020

A Tim's Top Gear Rick & Morty Themed Travel Challenge: We're going to Windigo, Morty!

I'm a big fan of Top Gear, and I especially enjoy their travel/challenges.  I've always dreamed of planning one, getting people silly enough to commit to it and then making it happen.

In the summer of COVID I'm finding myself daydreaming of possible adventures, so I started poking around on the internet trying to find how far north roads go in Ontario.  Bafflingly, Ontario has never connected to its own north sea shore by road.  For a province that has thousands of kilometers of ocean shoreline, Ontario seems intent on convincing its citizens that it's land locked.  I'd love to ride 1000kms north to the sea, but it's not an option.  James Bay is roughly in line with Scotland, so its not like it's in the arctic.

In the meantime, it looks like Windigo Lake north west of Thunder Bay is as far north as you can ride in Ontario on your own wheels:

...which offers us a great thematic riding challenge!  It's time to go to Windigo (instead of Bendigo), Morty!  Here's the inspiration in case you're not hip to Rick & Morty:
Here's the Top Gear style WE'RE GOIN TO WINDIGO, MORTY! Moto Travel Challenge:
  • Each participant gets a $3000 budget for a bike and any farkles that must include a safety certificate.  Ownership is by WG2W Productions, pending the bikes return to Elora within 10 days of the event, at which point ownership is signed over to the rider.  Safety and taxes should be about $400, so that leaves about $2600 for a bike and farkles
  • Insurance and ownership is managed by the event
  • All riders must have a valid Ontario M class license
  • Camping equipment is provided to each rider individually based on a sponsored selection of gear (rider's choice)  Each rider will be provided with bear gear.
  • Each participant has to do any repair or maintenance on their own bike.  Only other competitors can assist.
  • Google maps says it's a 27 hour ride to Windigo.  Riders can only be on the road between 7am and 7pm, so the most efficient (and luckiest) should arrive in Windigo on day three in the morning.  At 12 hours per day of possible riding, 27 hours =  2..25 days of riding.  The earliest rider with a perfectly timed ride would arrive at Windigo at 10am on day three of the event.
  • Timing for the event takes into account speed limits.  Any rider caught speeding is disqualified.
  • Any overnight stops while riding to Windigo must be wild camping following leave-no-trace rules.  Proof of camp site cleanup must be included on rider GoPro footage or a time penalty is applied.
  • The rider who gets to Windigo (getting to Windigo means arriving at the lake on your bike and dipping a toe in) as close to 27 hours of riding after leaving the start line as possible, wins!
  • Riders can choose how to use their daylight hours to ride.  In the case of a tie, the rider to get to Windigo the soonest and closest to 27 hours of riding after race start wins
  • Winner gets a We're going to Windigo, Morty gold medal.  There will be silver and bronze finalist medals too.  Smallest displacement and oldest bikes who finish also get awards
  • Any participant who finishes this long distance riding rally and is able to ride back to the start line within a week of the competition end can keep their bike! 
...followed by 469kms of
challenging unpaved roads
to the end of all roads.
A paved odyssey...
This isn't an easy ride.  It starts with almost 1700kms of riding on paved roads ranging from the biggest freeway you can imagine to single lane tar patched, northern frost heaved back-road.  You've then got almost 500kms of riding gravel up to where all roads end at Windigo.  Trying to do this on a one trick pony like a cruiser would be entertaining, but likely unsuccessful.  This is a challenge for a multi-purpose motorcycle!

The 599 highway isn't Google car photoed once you get on the gravel, and you're constantly dodging lakes this deep into the Canadian Shield.  The closest I could get was this photo of the Mishkeegogamang Band Office, which shows a graded gravel road out front.  Fuel stops are few and far between, some cunning planning will be required!


There are some interesting choices at the bottom end of the bike market in Ontario:

A bike that'll handle the off-road part of this trip, though it isn't built for the thousands of kilometres of paved road leading to the hundreds of miles of gravel fire roads.  Capable of handling the camping gear too.  Should come in on budget on the road.

Low mileage, in good shape and comes safetied, so you'd have a bit left over for farkles.  It'd chew up the pavement side of WG2W effortlessly, but that windshield might never see Windigo (Morty).

Big Honda touring bike, high miles, but it's a Honda.  It'd be a handful on nearly a thousand kilometres of gravel, but some people like that.  Should come in under budget and ready to make miles.  The paves stuff would flash by on this and it could carry camping gear with ease!

Low miles, Kawasaki dependable, in great shape.  The Versys is short for versatile bike system, just what you'd need to get to Windigo (Morty).  The 650 is a lightweight bike that'll handle gravel, and it has luggage and mounting points for some soft bags.  I'd probably be able to get it for $2300 certified, which gives me a bit for some soft saddle bags, then I'm off to the races!  This'd be my choice.  Might spill my extra cash on some 70/30 semi-off road tires.

There are lots of other interesting choices that you could get road ready for under three grand in Ontario.  Seeing what people choose and how they prep the bike for long distance, multi-surface, remote riding would be half the fun.  To stretch the choices there would also be trophies for the oldest bike and smallest displacement bike to finish the ride, so some people might go after those rather than the timed competition.


All bikes have GoPros to capture footage and all riders agree to provide at least 15 minutes of speaking to camera dialogue per day while in the rally.  All competitors have to document their camp build and take down.  There will be a production/sweeper vehicle with a trailer in case of any bike failures.  The vehicle will be able to provide technical support in remote areas and be designed for the gravel portion of the event as well as offer a central point for production and media management.

Competition begins when all riders have their bikes delivered to a shared garage space in Elora.

Film Schedule:
Day 1:  All bikes have arrived.  Bike familiarity and maintenance, bike paperwork taken care of, all riders and production crew doing piece to camera introducing themselves and talking about the event and prep
Day 2:  Bike familiarity and preparation, filming continues
Day 3:  Bike familiarity and preparation, finalizing ride planning, filming continues.  All bikes in park ferme at the end of the day ready for the morning's off.
Day 4:  7am Race start in Elora.  Filmed by production vehicle crew and GoPros on bikes.
Production vehicle stopping in Thunder Bay on Day 1.
Day 5:  7am start.  Production vehicle stopping at Windigo to await arrival of riders (riders who arrive early will have a major penalty, so no one should be there until day 3)
Day 6:  Production vehicle at Windigo Lake awaiting arrivals.  End of day 6:  close of event party on Windigo
Day 7:  All rider camping gear to be taken in by the support vehicle for a lighter ride back.  Sweeping the road south to Silver Dollar (the beginning of pavement).  All competitors camping at Silver Dollar Campsite that night.  Confirm end of event with all riders.
Day 8:  Retrace/sweep route to Thunder Bay.  End of rally event in Thunder Bay.  Riders who want to keep their bikes have 3 days to return to the workspace in Elora in order to claim ownership.  Riders who want to find their own way home can do so and bikes will be transported in the trailer.
Day 9:  Production vehicle sweeps south clearing any bikes that have been parked.
Day 11:  Any bikes that have returned to the workspace in Elora have their ownership turned over to their riders.

Episodes:  45 minute edited
1)  Introducing riders, bike selection and  preparation - possibly include off-road training at SMART Adventures?
2) Rally Start:  day one on the road
3) Rally Continued:  day two on the road
4) Rally Conclusion: day three on the road and rally winners and finishers highlighted
5) where did they go missing riders review, post rally interviews while returning to Thunder Bay, final presentations in TB, sweeping up, who got to keep their bikes
Total production time:  3.75 hours of edited footage

Other opportunities:  Work with SMART Adventures out of Horseshoe Valley - include bits on how to ride off road, what riders can expect, how to manage bikes on loose surfaces.

Rough costing:
8 Competitors @ $3000 per bike = $24,000
Production Vehicle Cost (rental & gasoline):  $3000
Insurance & Paperwork costs at $1000 each competitor = $8,000
Production equipment (cameras, drone, on bike GoPros):  $5000
Production team hotels:  4 people x 2 nights Thunder Bay, 1 night on the road back, 2 nights camping in the north = $2000
Camping gear:  $1000/competitor + production crew = $10,000 (mitigated by sponsorship?)

Total rough budget:  $52,000.  Estimated budget:  $60,000   (mitigated by sponsorship)

Sponsorship opportunities:

- workshop/repair centre where bike setup takes place
- motorcycle farkle manufacturers or suppliers
- camping gear supply
- Tourism Ontario
- Northern Ontario
- motorcycle manufacturers
- competitor sponsorship
- Rick & Morty Themed prize swag