Tuesday 23 March 2021

Ready For The Off: off-roading by bike and Jeep

A tread lightly off road system that would let us explore places off the beaten path:

Wrangler 4xe hybrid Jeep

This crazy thing gets almost 50mpg!  It also has good towing capacity and legendary off road ability.  We had one as a rental last year and they are versatile, overengineered and astonishing off road.


Only take a couple of minutes to pop up, has cool things like integral LED lighting and folds into a solid roof mounted case that keeps it safe and aerodynamic on the move.

It only weighs 176lbs (so as much as a passenger), but makes you entirely capable of pulling up and stopping in a pretty spot and making it home.  In COVID world being able to stop in an empty bit of nature is the key to being to travel anywhere at all.

In something as versatile as the Wrangler there are few places you couldn't get to before making it home for the night.

$2500USD  ($3125CAD)

CRF250F Honda Off Road Specialist

Super light at 120kg (265lbs) the CRF250F is a light weight dirtbike that is so light that we could hang two off the back bumper and still come in under the dual carrier weight limit.

$5650 x 2

Two CRF250Fs weigh in at 530lbs fully fueled.  With no fuel in them they'd be a full hundred pounds under the 600lb weight limit on the Black Widow Aluminum Double Motorcycle Carrier, which means we'd just be a Jeep without a trailer.

$330USD ($415CAD)

But now I'm thinking the Wrangler doesn't have the tongue weight requirements to handle two bikes.

The Jeep Gladiator could do it, but it doesn't come with the 4xe option (yet!).  A top of the line Gladiator comes in just under sixty-grand.  While it doesn't offer 4xe yet, it would mean no trailer towing.  I wonder if a Gladiator would be more efficient than a Wrangler 4xe towing a trailer.  With bikes in the bed this'd do it without the extras.

If I have to trailer then this'd be the one to go with.  It folds up and stands up to take up less space when not in use, comes with all the holders you need and is a well built thing that would work as a bike hauler.  With this I'm back to the Wrangler 4xe to move the bikes around when needed.

$3,099.00USD  $3900CAD

Where am I at with a super fuel-efficient off road and bike logistics system?

Wrangler 4xe  $58,000
Trailer             $3900
CRF250F x2   $11300
Roof Tent        $3125
... which is about the price of a mid-sized BMW SUV (X5)  Seems like a lot of bang for the buck when you look at it that way.  Uses way less gasoline too.

No more begging for time at the family cottage - we could just be out there, COVID or not.

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Tiger Triage

I sometimes find myself embroiled in politics. I hate politics. It's one of those things that even when you do it really well the results are always a disappointment. Working with people is frustrating and exhausting. My wife suggested that if I wasn't enjoying it that I should stop and do something else, so I did.

Out in the garage I flipped on the tunes, got the Tiger up on a 2x4 on its centre stand so it's a bit higher up and put a car battery on the back so the front tire tipped up in the air well clear of the floor. The speedometer wasn't reading anything so I slipped the front wheel forward off the axle bolt and double checked everything.

The speedo mechanism (#15 in the pic) has that spacer (#14) facing in from the outside.  That diagram isn't great (the speedo unit is shown as backwards on there (the wider side goes in, not out as that picture suggests).

#14 spacer was in backwards but more importantly the speedometer unit wasn't mounted on the splines sticking out #7 in the diagram.  Those splines fit into gaps in the speedo housing and I'd missed them when I installed it.

With the speedometer unit lined up on the splines properly and the spacer in the right way around the whole thing went back together and I immediately had responsive speedometer again.

The engine light was still on so I threw the exhaust hose on (it's a bit of aluminum duct), plugged in the TuneBoy engine management system and ran the engine for a few minutes to see what codes it picked up.

TuneBoy is a plug in and see what's going on in your bike's computer tool that I've found very easy to use.  It comes with the adapter head that fits on to the output plug under the seat on the bike.  Plug that in and the other end into USB on a computer (I have one wall mounted in the garage) and then open up the software and you can see what your computer sees.  Lots of people get anxious about working with computerized bikes but TuneBoy makes it accessible.

The opening 'screen' is pretty disco (in a 1990s/early 2k kind of app design way).

The computer had collected a pile of errors.  These old Triumph computers will eventually dump the codes if they don't keep seeing an error, but it takes a while.

I took the gas tank off for the thousandth time (I'm WIlliams F1 Team pitstop fast at it now) and cleaned and checked all the connections.  I also pulled the air temperature sensor and cleaned it up in case it was clogged.

With all the connections cleaned the computer still had the errors in memory so I reset it (you can do that in the TuneBoy program) and then reset everything and fired it up again.

With the computer reset I let it idle for a few minutes and it threw no new errors up, and the engine light had gone off!  I took it out for another spin around the road in front of the house and it's now error free.  The engine light is off, the brakes have sharpened up and the speedometer works.  The Tiger is now five by five.  All the new parts are making it work better than it did and all the teething issues from the BIG COVID WINTER MAINTENANCE OF 20/21 are resolved.

It's a glorious thing!  Engine feels strong and certain with none of the stalling issues or hesitancy from last year.  All the cosmetic work makes the bike look much younger than its 18 years and over eight-thousand kilometers.

We're supposed to have a couple of sunny but cool days coming up.  I'm hoping I can get out and rediscover this wonderfully versatile and increasingly unique machine.

Sunday 14 March 2021

Tiger Testing After A Winter of Deep Maintenance

Road testing the Tiger on a cold (-3°C) day after a winter of deep maintenance.

The Good Stuff:
  • the swingarm maintenance has transformed the rear suspension!  Unseized bearings mean the back end is supple and responsive now
  • the front forks and steering feel brand new thanks to fork servicing and pulling the steering apart and re-greasing everything
  • the new tires are spectacular! The old Michelins still looked ok but they were badly squared off and made the bike hesitant to turn - it drops into turns like a gymnast now!
  • the deep cleaning on the fuel injection system has worked a charm.  It idles well and the fueling is excellent.
  • the cosmetic touch-ups make the bike look much younger than it's 18 years and over 80k kms
  • the new indicators suit the bike way better and work perfectly
  • new horn is loud and works well
The Bad Stuff:
  • I've bled the front brakes and they're tight now, but after repeatedly bleeding the rears they're still not what they were, though they do now produce some stopping power.  I need to check for any leaks and bleed again.
  • The speedo doesn't show speed!  This has never been a problem before.  I'm going to check the connection to the gauge because I was knocking it around and might have knocked it loose
    • speedo step two will be to raise the front end, remove the front tire and check how I installed the speedo unit - it only goes on one way so I'm not sure how that could be wrong but if the gauge check doesn't do anything that's the next step
  • The engine light is on!  Though the engine feels fantastic, sounds great and the fuel injection which was problematic last year idles steady and fuels very smoothly.  The simple computer in the bike sometimes needs a few runnings to clear an error after a long time unpowered (like the 99 day Canadian winter break we had this long, cold, COVID-winter)

The bike goes and works better than it did in many regards before the winter-maintenance.  A couple of details and it seems ready to take on another short Canadian riding season.  I'm still hoping to hit 100k the year the bike turns 20 years old (2023).

Photos are all taken with a Ricoh ThetaV 360 camera wrapped around the wing mirror with a flexible tripod.  The camera is set to take a photo every four seconds then I just go for a ride and see what I caught when I get back.  Photos were edited in the Ricoh software and then touched up in Adobe Lightroom.

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Like finally being able to take a breath after four months of holding it...

Last ride:  Nov 30th, 2020.  First ride:  March 9th, 2021.  That's 99 days off two-wheels!  This is the face you make when you're sidelined for that long over an interminable COVID-winter:

Took the Fireblade down the still partially frozen Grand River a ways.  It's as fiery and bladey as it was before it hibernated for the winter.

When I got back I was frozen solid but wanted to see if the Tiger was operational:

It started well and ran more smoothly than usual suggesting that my fuel injector deep cleaning has made things work better.  The brakes still need some TLC though  The fronts are coming on but the rears are completely flat, so some more bleeding is in my future.

Sunday 7 March 2021

Pre-Flight Tests: winter motorcycle maintenance

Ignore the giant pile of snow outside!  It's actually supposed to go above zero this week.  One way or another I'll be on two wheels in the next five days!  Next week there's 30cms of snow coming, but there is an opening in the never-ending Canadian winter of COVID and I intend to take it!

With everything back in place, the Tiger came off the bike stand for the first time since December and the wheels didn't fall off, so that's a win.  I'd hoped to start it and test how everything went back together but the new battery is taking a while to charge.

Last summer I purchased a new battery for the Tiger but it didn't come for the better part of 3 months and I didn't want to activate it when the bike was about to be parked for four months, so it's been sitting in the front hall in the box.  I put the acid in it today and got it charging.

The acid installation is pretty straightforward.  They give you the liquid in a series of attached sealed plastic tubes and you simply 'inject' them into the top of the battery and let them drain over 20 minutes.  You then use the provided caps to seal the battery.

Tomorrow will be motor tests on both bikes and then a short ride with each (I hope) to shake down any issues.  The Tiger was down to its nuts and bolts this winter so I want to make sure everything is tight and together before I put any serious mileage on it.

The Honda has been cleaned and covered since its last ride in November, so it should be ready to go.  The battery's been on the trickle charger inside all winter.  One way or another I'll be out on a bike this week.  It feels like finally being able to take a breath after four months of holding it.


  • New indicators that suit the bike better (tougher metal construction too)
  • Chassis taken down to nuts and bolts for a complete service
  • New HEL brake lines
  • Flushed brakes
  • New Michelins installed (myself!)
  • Fuel Injectors cleaned
  • Fork oil changed
  • Cosmetic repairs


  • oil change
  • everything cleaned
  • deep carb cleaning (with disassembly)
  • battery tending inside over the winter
  • throw a blanket on it

Monday 1 March 2021

2021 Motorcycle Wish List


The new hybrid Wrangler Jeep manages to get 50mpg while also being able to run entirely off battery for my entire commute to work.  It's also tow capable and even stronger than the 21mpg of the base 4 cylinder model it's based on.  It'll tow, it'll use barely any gas under normal circumstances and it's a genuinely useful utility vehicle that also lets you take the roof off and make driving an event.

Foldable Utility Trailer: $2500 

An easy to load, multi-functional trailer that'll carry up to 2000lbs (3-4 bikes).  The transformable nature of it means I could also hang it on the wall in the garage out of the way until it was needed.

They have bike-specific trailers too, but this one would handle bikes while also being a multi-purpose thing that lets me utilize my new utility vehicle in many ways.

Kawasaki ZG1400 Concours 14:  $8500 low mileage and current spec.  This would be the 2-up friendly tourer with sporting pretensions that would be a dependable regularly rider as well as the family friendly choice that could carry my wife or my son as pillion.

This one has a cosmetic scratch but is low mileage (35k  kms) and would be dependable for years to come.  As a big, functional, dependable 'modern' bike, this one checks all the boxes.  I'd like to keep the older Tiger, but this bike would take the all-ways on demand for riding off it.

It comes with all the luggage, just had new tires put on it and has had major services done recently, so it'd be a no-headaches addition to the paddock that would take all the pressure off the old things.

My son and I did SMART Adventures again last summer and I did the whole nine yards:  I started on a trials bike, gave the new BMW 1250GS a try and then finished the day trail riding on a Yamaha 250cc dirt bike.  It was a brilliant day and I've been keen to find a way to keep practicing these skills but buying an off road bike in Ontario isn't easy.

This P.O.S. on Kijiji is a fine example.  It's a 20 year old bike that the seller couldn't even be bothered to pick up off the floor for the photo.  It's broken, not running and they still want over two grand for it!  Dirt bikes get abused and then still seem to retain their value.  I'm asking about the same amount for a safetied, perfectly running Fireblade super-bike from the same era and can't get a bite.

The other recent P.O.S. I looked at was this trials bike, which was ancient, technically uninteresting (being the year before they got good) and was being sold in better condition anywhere else except in Ontario for half the $1800 the owner wanted.  It's not longer available.  I can't beleive that he sold it, but maybe he did.  People in Ontario are willing to pay a lot of money for money-pit projects.

The used market for off-road machines in Ontario is so psychotic that it almost makes sense to just buy a new one.  A Suzuki DR200 brand new is less than five grand, so why on earth would you buy someone else's heaping pile of shit for the same amount of money?  I can handle the weight so even the 50 kilo heavier DR650 is only a touch over six grand.  I'm still kicking myself for not picking up that brand-new/old stock DR650 a couple of years ago.

I always thought I'd be rebuilding an old dirt bike from re-machining the cylinders all the way up, a complete rebuild, but the obscene pricing of dirt bikes in Ontario makes that unlikely.

There are alternatives to Ontario's psychotic used bike market.  It's possible to drop old, used, broken Yamaha money on a brand new electric Chinese trials bike.  This is edgy new tech but that's where I work all day so I'm not scared of it.  

There are other Chinese off-roading alternatives like the Tanaci-Wong, which is intriguing.  Their Facebook page has a Canadian distributor offering their 150cc trials bike for under $3500!  That'd only buy you a non-working 15 year old POS on Kijiji.

Chinese engineering has come a long way in the last decade and harbouring old prejudices against it doesn't make a lot of sense.

In a perfect world I'd have that Tiger purring like a kitten, the Fireblade for dynamics focused rides, a C14 for two up riding and a trials bike for exercise and balance practice.  Alas, these things would necessitate a bigger garage.