Monday, June 23, 2008

Olympia Phantom Update

I just finished a trip with the Olympia Phantom suit. Temps in Yellowstone were 34F in the rain / snow / hail. Temps over Washington's Snoqualmie Pass were in the 38F range and speeds were 70+.

On the other hand, temps in the Texas Panhandle pinged triple digits. Dalhart, TX showed 100F even for several hours on the ambient air gauge of the FJR.

The Phantom and I handled it all quite well, thank you.

Here are a couple of pics in the cold with the liner installed and one layer of common thermal underwear. Heated grips were the only thing I needed to be perfectly comfy. Really, I have no memories of discomfort, cold spots, drafts when I was set up this way. I use thin roadrace gloves with gauntlets. V-Strom hand guards help.

Then came the Texas panhandle. I only used the exterior of the suit and a specially ribbed air moving liner (separate article later). Obviously the stock warming liner was packed away and all the vents were open. It worked. 100F is 100F and staying in the shade of the suit was just fine as long as air kept moving.

So that part of the package worked, but if you read the first review you'll find that the suit is an absolute commitment. You have to put the suit on in the morning and decide which mode it'll be in. You pretty much have to live with that commitment for the rest of the day.

It's impractical to take the liner in or out in the middle of a day. It's impractical to even change the venting on a large scale without pulling over and asking for help. Set it and forget it, because it's just gonna be hard to do.

Just to show an example: There are vents / air intakes in the arm. They extend from the upper shoulder down to a point below the elbow. They're large and they work. No complaint there. But OMG, if you open them and do the velcro that keeps it all from flapping in the breeze, you cannot possibly close the zippers and redo the velcro for a sudden shower or a mountain pass. You must pull over, yank on zippers, tug hard on velcro, and batten the hatches.

I don't even want to discuss the vents on the back. Virtually impossible to secure if the suit is on your body. I don't care if you pull over or not. You'll have to get naked at the side of the road.

This is my only problem with the suit....... It's the most inflexibly flexible thing I own.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The luggage rack in actual use.

I just finished 4600+ miles over two weeks with the luggage rack. Mind you, there's one mod I made before I left that probably proved to be beneficial. I used aluminum barstock for the front mounts of the prototype version you see two posts below.

For the actual mounts, I switched to 1/8 x 1 steel stock. The one or two ounces of weight I might have saved with aluminum just didn't concern me when compared to the possibility of cracking or crushing of the mounts.

Here are some pics of the plate installed and then in use. I have to guess I had more than 50# on it for the entire trip. The load is mounted forward, very low when compared to using a topcase, and there is very little problem with handling changes. Basically the bike just gets a little more heavy.

Again, this kind of thing can be fabricated for any sort of bike. TW200 to GL1800.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Olympia Phantom review

I recently bought an Olympia Phantom from my friend Nathan at MotoLiberty San Antonio (TX). It might seem strange that a guy from Seattle would buy from a store in San Antonio, but service is important to me. MotoLiberty has always delivered at both the Dallas and SA locations. They know their stuff and they're easy to work with.

This past Sunday I took the Phantom on a shakedown ride eastbound from Seattle on I-90 then east on I-82 into Yakima. Temperatures over Snoqualmie Pass were in the 37F range with persistent rain. Temps east of the mountains were about 54F with winds in the 40+ mph range. It was a near perfect day for a test.

The suit consists of a Dupont Cordura outer shell and a removable jump suit liner. I wore a t-shirt, Warmnsafe electric jacket liner, bluejeans and touring boots underneath the lined suit. Without connecting my heated jacket liner, I was perfectly warm even at 37F in the rain..... but I should mention that I was on the FJR with V-Strom hand guards and the windshield all the way up. I guess what I'm saying is that the bike protected the suit and the suit protected me. Dispite riding in the cold rain for at least 2 hours, I never got wet and the only parts of me that started feeling cold were the tips of my thumbs.

There are other reviews of the product out there, but here are my opinions of the design and execution:

1) The suit is promoted as a pull-over that can be donned over your street clothes. This is probably practical if you're not using the liner, but if you use the whole suit, it's a PITA to do.

2) The suit seems very effective as a "put it on in the morning and ride all day" suit.

3) It's a painfully long process to get the suit on and off. The outer shell has a whopping 124 inches (Yes, TEN+ FEET) of 1" wide velcro that has to be seperated (and realigned) before you can get the suit on or off. Mind you, there's 10 feet of zipper underneath the 10 feet of velcro. Oh, and another ten feet of zipper on the liner (but no velcro). So if we do the math, we have ten feet of velcro and twenty feet of zipper. No, I'm not kidding.

4) Olympia made no provision for making electrical connections thru the suit. There is no prescribed way to connect your heated clothes. There are no openings in the liner or outer shell.

5) Unless you peel the top part of the suit down, you can't get anything out of your pants pockets if you need to. I left my wallet in my jeans and had to do some Cirque de Soleil moves to extract it later. Even something as simple as getting two Tums out of my left front pocket required the skills of a specially trained Chinese girl. There is NO access from the outside to the inside of the suit.

So how do I view the suit in the marketplace? I think it's preferable to a set of leathers for LD riding, but I'll keep my cowskins for the crazy stuff. It's more comfy and warmer than my Joe Rocket two piece suit. It supports a wider range of temps than anything else I own. The removable liner and the zippered venting should easily support temps from freezing to 100F without much trouble.

Does it work? Yes, if you accept it for what it is. Is it convenient for short trips? Not even a little bit. Is it a good touring suit for a 700 mile day? At its price point, yes. Street pricing is around $450.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Luggage rack prototype

Before you look at these pics and decide they're only about sport-touring motorcycles, think again. What I'll present here could apply to any motorcycle that needs a rack.

I dislike topcases. They're not very aerodynamic. They're cumbersome. They're expensive. They make my FJR look even more geriatric than it might otherwise appear. They're mounted too high and too far back for decent handling at speed.

90% of the time there's nothing in the topcase anyway, but we keep them on our bikes because their mounts are so freaking ugly.

For my purposes, the FJR's sidecases and a piece or two of soft luggage will haul all the stuff I need most of the time. If I need more stuff than that, I need to enlist the assistance of UPS.

So I've been thinking about building this for the last week or so. My design criteria were:

1) Keep my soft luggage from rubbing on my hard luggage.
2) Create a load space that extended from the tail of the FJR to the front of the passenger seating area.
3) Inexpensive but moderately attractive.
4) Easily removable.

And so, I built this.

Total time invested is ~5 hours. Raw cost was ~$40.

The rack is made of 3/8" x 16" x 24" ABS plastic. My local supplier sells it with a mottled finish that helps keep it from looking scratched in real-world use. The supplier even rounded the corners and buffed the edges for me. All I had to do was measure, drill, and fabricate the front aluminum brackets.

So what does this have to do with you and your bike? Well, LOTS of motorcycles out there will support racks. Look up your local plastics dealer. Ask about ABS or Delrin if you want a black rack. HDPE can be used if you want white. Other plastics come in colors. Why use plastic? It's easier to work with and it's 1/4 the cost of aluminum plate.

Just another thing to make you think.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Review - Alpine Stars
Ridge Waterproof Boots

I've been looking for a reasonably priced set of waterproof boots. I really don't like cold/squishy/wrinkled toes at the end of a day's ride. I don't like trying to dry a pair of fungus farms over a hotel room heater unit overnight. I don't like putting semi-dry (cold) boots on first thing in the morning. So, because I live in the Pacific North WET, I got these.

I got a phone call from my friend Suzie inviting me to join her and her GF at one of the local dealerships. Seems they were having their quarterly BBQ and sale. While wandering around, Suzie stumbled on these boots. (We'd coincidentally been looking at them online the previous evening. Suzie had already ordered a set. I was going to order a set that evening.)

I tried them on and they fit correctly in the toe area. They seem fairly true to size and tend to be wider across the toes than most manufacturers' roadrace boots. Construction seems durable. If your feet are like mine with a wide toe area and skinny heels will find they're a bit too wide in back, but they're not unusual in this regard.

Internet price is about $110. Suzie got me these for $87. She made them a gift.

Ok, so now the review in actual use. I only give them 2.5 stars right now.

1) These boots release from both sides. Getting your foot into them is super easy.
2) They're decent looking.
3) They seem to have a small patch of reflective material on the back of the heel. (Yeah, I'm really reaching for pros.)

1) The toe height is 2". This makes it difficult to get the toe under the shifter.
2) The boots are stiffer than John Holmes at the peak of his career. This makes it difficult to bend your ankle for shifting. 1+2 equals lots of missed shifts.
3) The shin guard area of the boot is only 8.25 inches above the inside base of the boot. Stand barefooted and measure 8.25 inches up your leg from the floor. Now imagine a REALLY stiff boot whacking you in the shins at that point every time you walk or shift. The 'shoe' part of these boots is comfy (but stiff). The uppers are torture.

I haven't really tested their waterproofness, but based on what I see of the construction, they seem tight. I'll re-review these if I ever get them broken in. I hated my SIDI roadrace boots when I originally bought them too. Time will tell.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Secure / waterproof tank storage.

I'm finally getting around to posting the pics and details of my waterproof tank storage system. We could call it a tankbag, but it's far from a bag.

The unit is made from a Seahorse SE-120 case that's lockable and waterproof. It is mounted on a SW-MOTECH tank top camera mount system.

The whole unit is easily removed and replaced, doesn't interfere with fueling as much as other systems, and is completely waterproof so the contents won't get rusty or soggy.

Not all of the SW-MOTECH parts are used. Unfortunately TwistedThrottle doesn't sell the baseplate and the mount without either a tank bag or the camera kit, so you end up with some parts left over.

Here are the pics. Click to make larger.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Reflector kit installation

I've just done business with Alex at Realtime Industries. I purchased a reflector kit for the FJR. He custom cuts the kit to fit the hard bags for sport-touring machines. His work and customer service are excellent.

Alex sells kits with additional graphics, and if you look at his products, the kits are available in either red (my choice) or the more popular "black" that reflects white/silver at night when headlights hit it.

Based on the pics below, you can see I chose plain old red. Some of you are going to think it's hideous. Too bold. Too loud. Let me explain my criteria.

In my opinion, these reflector kits are a safety device. They help people see you. Big, bright red reflector kits help people see you both DAY and NIGHT. The "black" kit does nothing for you during the day. For me, this is a disadvantage in Seattle where it's often gloomy, overcast, and generally grey.

My other issue with the "black" kits is that they're not really black. They're sort of a dark dark brown. They look even more brown when mounted on the FJR's dark black sidecases. It's an aesthetic thing. I'd rather have high contrast and high visibility than a poor color match with only night-time visibility advantages.

Again, we're back to personal choice. Here are the pics. As usual, click to make them larger.

Under my regular garage lighting. No flash.

No lighting in my closed garage. Light flash setting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Luggage Locker Debacle.

A previous article contains some info on the Luggage Locker product. I intended to use their product to create a lockable, relatively secure and waterproof case that would be mounted directly in front of me while riding. To accomplish this, I bought a SeaHorse SE-120 case.

I went to Luggage Locker because theirs is the only tank mounting system I've found with a keyed lock built into the product. I intended to mount the case onto their camera mount plate.

Picture of the concept again. Click to make it larger.

A little history. I bought a used Luggage Locker product from a friend. It was used and inexpensive. The package contained a tank bag, a camera mount kit, and a base plate. The base plate I got was pretty generic and didn't fit my FJR, so I ordered a FJR base plate from Luggage Locker's website. I got confirmation of the order on January 7.

Today is January 30. That's 23 days. Let me tell you what's transpired.

On about January 20th, I emailed Luggage Locker and got the following response:

"I'm headed to the factory either today or tomorrow to pick up a load of bags. Yours should be in that batch,.....". Note: I didn't order a bag. He never looked up my order.

Yesterday, I left a voicemail on his telephone. This morning I got a 2 minute voicemail of excuses. The excuses included:

1) He didn't have a heated workspace.
2) He has about a 6 week period where he can't get product out because of the cold.
3) This is apparently his off season and "most people aren't needing things".
Interesting way to run a business.

Now, he claimed he'd get the product out within the next couple of days, but this was getting ridiculous. It made me wonder seriously about what was supposed to be a relatively simple project.

Then it happened. I went downstairs to re-examine the idea. I looked at the existing mount ring I'd gotten with the used unit. I grabbed the lock with my thumb and forefinger. I pulled and wiggled the lock just once. Nothing difficult, nothing heroic.

The lock came completely out of the mount ring. POIT! No threads, no security pin, no locator of any kind. Apparently it's held in place with some sort of epoxy. The delrin/teflon-esque plastic of the unit doesn't seem compatible with the epoxy. IMO - a less than ideal execution and hardly secure.

Granted, I don't know how old my baseplate is. I don't know how many miles are on it. By the same token, I won't be able to tell when the new one will fail.

I cancelled my order in writing immediately. I cannot recommend the Luggage Locker product or company.

I've elected to use the Twisted Throttle - SW MOTECH baseplate and camera mount sytem instead. I'll figure out how to lock this unit to the FJR and post a new article.

UPDATE re: Twisted Throttle. I ordered the baseplate and camera mount last night online (1/30/08). I've already received UPS confirmation of that the paperwork was done at ~9am PST (1/31/08). Apparently they have inventory and they ship orders.

Notice received that product has shipped at ~2pm PST (1/31/08).

UPS Notice received that product is on time at ~6pm PST (1/31/08). Twisted Throttle seems to work.

Luggage Locker, aka Rocket Locker, aka Leslie Alderman invoiced and shipped his product to me two days after written cancellation. What kind of business is he running? The product arrived by USPS today with a hand written invoice (off-the-shelf 'statement' stock). Further, the product was wrapped in an old Brooks Brothers bag. This is turning out to be the worst retail transaction I've ever had, and that includes more than 100 eBay transactions.

Yes, I sent him a scathing email. I'll be happy to report how it goes.

Update: Leslie Alderman has emailed me saying he will take care of the problem if I'll send the product back. It gets shipped to him tomorrow (2/6/08) with proof of delivery.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tank Bags

I have a few tank bags. Here are some examples I've flopped onto the FJR for visuals. None of them is strapped down or attached by magnets. They're just "in position".

If you're asking "strap down" or "magnetic", I'd say magnetic. They're easier to remove, don't leave a baseplate once removed, and don't seem to scratch the tank any more or less than strap downs. Do they move? Believe it or not, the magnetics seem to move less than strap downs.

Some examples, starting with the smallest and moving all the way to insanely large. As usual, you can click on these pics for a larger version.

Marsee Bullet bag. Tiny. Essentials only. Wallet, passport, package of crackers. It doesn't fit much more than that.

Older Chase Harper 100mcm semi-rigid bag. Currently still in production. Small and pretty useful. No handle or grab strap. This one has to be 15+ years old. I guess their products last well enough.

Luggage Locker tank bag. I had to prop it into position with a foam pad underneath. The mount plate has yet to arrive from the manufacturer. Medium sized. Floppy sides and top, rigid base, locking (twist and lock) base system. This is the only tank bag I've found with an actual keyed lock to keep it on the bike.

Cortech/Tourmaster TriBag 21 liter. As you can see, it's taller than the windscreen when full. Not logical. I've also shown this same bag used as a tail bag on the FJR passenger seat. The bag doesn't seem to be in production any more. I'm guessing most people thought it was too big.

And finally, an option I'm working on. This is a waterproof, locking case attached to a locking Luggage Locker baseplate and mount plate. This is not a Pelican case. It's a SeaHorse SE-120 case with keyed locks. The semigloss finish is much more appropriate for this application than a Pelican and you can't get integrated locks on the Pelican. The SE-120 was delivered to my house for less than $35.

FJR - Farkle layout.

I've taken a bunch of pics of the complete control and farkle layout of the FJR. I'm going to reconsolidate them here and clean up one or two of the other articles. This version should be more complete and more visually descriptive. All these pics and ideas are just my way of doing things. They work for me. They're ideas and methods you might want to consider when it comes to making changes to your motorcycle, FJR or not. Here goes.

What comes to my left hand:
The focal point is the stealth garage door opener. It's velcroed to the hand guard and there's a tether from it to a bolt for a little more assurance it won't tumble and can't be removed easily.

Above it is the add-on control box for the cruise control (green and amber push buttons) and the Heat-troller for the heated hand grips. There's also an alarm blinkie. Obviously the bike has modified Suzuki V-Strom hand guards. (Common mod for FJRs).

The total installed package:
This is the usual configuration of farkles. Cell phone, Quest 2 GPS, iPod Shuffle, Boostaroo amp (helps extend the battery life of the iPod), and a set of custom moulded headphones (not in pic). Obviously the music stuff can be stuck in a my jacket pocket. I seldom use the iPod, but the cell phone works well with my Cardo Rider bluetooth very well.

Cardo Rider bluetooth set:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Warmnsafe heated jacket power.

Warmnsafe makes electrically heated gear, including a heated jacket liner. I have one and it's great.

As far as its use, there has to be a power source and that source has to be controllable. Otherwise you'd eventually bake. That's why Warmnsafe also makes their "Heat-troller". It's a time based switch that turns the electricity on and off to adjust the amount of heat a person gets. You can read all about it on their site if you want.

Warmnsafe sells a Heat-troller that's designed to leave a dangly wire and plug somewhere on the bike. Yeah, a wire, with a plug on the end. Dangling. Maybe I could stash it under the seat when it wasn't in use.

I don't think that makes for a very clean installation. So this is what I did. 99% of the time this will be completely out of the way. When the jacket is in use, I simply attach an 18" cable between the socket and the jacket. The wire passes along the top of my left leg.

This pic shows the coax connector in the center of the pic. Visually, it's no worse than the factory body panel screw below it. Above it, you can see the knob for the Heat-troller.

This is the Heat-troller control knob and the coaxial connector below it.

As usual, you can click on these pics to make them larger.

Oh, by the way. Warmnsafe uses coaxial size N connectors and jacks. Sound like there's something common going on here?

Accessory outlets

I installed accessory outlets in the FJR recently. They consist of one SAE socket on the left, one standard 'cigarette lighter' socket on the right, and a coaxial size N above the second "T" in "THAT". Here's a pic. Click to make it larger.

You can see I've put these outlets on/in the rear fender. I know some of you are surprised/confused by the location. Tucked up tight and close, there are no obvious connections or wires visible under the fender. You'd have to hold your head upside down to find them.

The purpose of these outlets is to provide power while the bike is standing still. They'll power my air pump, a spotlight, a cell phone. Basically whatever is needed for an non-standard situation. Well, except for the size N coaxial connector. Its purpose is to allow me to plug in my trickle charger. It's the same product and use as in a previous topic.

Here's a pic of the trickle charger plugged into the coaxial connector.

See, I don't plug add-on accessories into the front of the bike. If I have an accessory, it's wired directly and left permanently installed. Personal choice. I have no need for generic outlets in the front fairing. I hate floppy cables and their potential for becoming entangled in the controls.

Ok, but what about the location? What about all the water and road splash and garbage that will collect under there? Well, I used lots of heat shrink tubing. I taped the wires as the factory might, and besides, what happens under the hood of a car during a pouring rain? Same dirt, same amount of water, same environment. So I don't worry about it. The products are engineered to resist the problem.

Yeah, I kinda left that part out of the equation.... See, the SAE on the left is an exterior grade RV unit with nylon screws. The 'cigarette' on the right is marine grade. The coax in the middle is chromed brass. I didn't use cheezy products for the interior dash of a 72 Ford.

Electrically, they're all wired to an independent 15 amp fused circuit (unswitched).

Here are my sources:

SAE. It's about 2/3 down the page.
Cig lighter and cig lighter. Same product at different prices?
Coax from Radio Shack.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Heated Grips

I recently installed DualStar handgrip heaters on my FJR. I used a Warmnsafe Heat-troller to regulate the grip temperature. Here are some details.

First, the DualStar grip heaters require you to remove your existing grips from the bike. This might be a good time to find a set of grips you like better than your stockers, and for the purpose of heating, a thinner (race) grip probably works best. I reused my stockers this time, but in the past, I've used 'gel' race grips with good results.

So, let's remove the grips and mount the heaters. Most manufacturers use a bit of rubber cement under the grips to secure them and keep them from rotating. To overcome this hurdle, I simply shove a long shaft thin gauge screwdriver between the grip and bar. Then I spin the screwdriver so that it migrates around the bar to peel the grip away. Finally, I spray some WD40 (or chain lube/whatever) between the grip and the bar where the screwdriver still is. A little spreading of the lube will allow the grip to slide off with a reasonable amount of effort. Be aware, YOU HAVE TO CLEAN THE LUBE OFF BEFORE PROCEEDING.

Ok, so now you've cleaned your bars of lube so the grip heaters can stick to the bars. The instructions included with the set are pretty obvious, but here are a couple of tips they don't seem to include.

First, locate the heater in a place that will heat your FINGERS, not your palms. This means to rotate the heaters so their centers face forward on the bike. They'll probably be even better if they're forward and slightly lower than the horizontal centerline of the bars. (Yeah, that might sound confusing, but sit on the bike, put your hands on the bars, and figure out where your actual fingers are gonna rest. Position your heaters so they stick in this area.)

Now, these heaters aren't huge. They don't cover the entire grip area, so they can also be placed anywhere between inboard and outboard of the grip. Where do you normally grip your grips? Out by the bar end weights, or inboard close to the finger controls? I do the latter, so I placed my grips under this area. Think ahead!

All right, now we've figured out where we wanna stick the heaters and we've stuck them there. It's pretty obvious how to do this. It's in the regular instructions.

Route your wires where you need to. Remember, there needs to be a LOT of slack on the throttle side so the throttle can be twisted without pulling the heater wires. Take care with this because you don't want that wire to hang the throttle open or closed. Proper routing is imperative.

Put your grips back on over the heaters, using whichever technique you normally use.

Now, here's where it gets really interesting. DualStar makes a decent grip heater, but their electrical diagram leaves a bunch of stuff in question. There are three wires for the heater. They're RED, BLUE, and WHITE.

Apparently, the RED wire is their 'common' rail. This connects to both the HI and LO circuits. Their diagram shows RED connected to battery or frame ground. This works, but it's an odd choice of colors.

I connected both the HI and LOW circuits together so that they operate together and get the grips HOT in a shorter period of time. Any other configuration seems to fall short in my book. I like toasty digits.

Thus, the WHITE and BLUE wires are connected together. This makes both halves of the heaters work simultaneously.

What's the drawback? Not much to speak of. Using the heaters together draws a maximum (measured) current of slightly less than 4.5 amps at 12VDC. The normal HI setting draws 2.85A and the low setting draws 1.6A. Most modern bikes will easily handle a 4.5 amp draw, and if your bike isn't able to provide the 1.65A difference between HI and 'tandem', you need a new charging system. (1.65A at 12VDC is just shy of 20 watts. That's like an extra tail light. Not much extra load.)

Now onto the Warmnsafe Heat-troller. Connections are simple. RED and BLACK go to 'hot' and 'ground' just like a normal accessory. The other bare wires coming from the product are BLUE and WHITE. In this case, BLUE is switched power and WHITE is effectively 'ground' (even though I measured it at about 15.5 ohms off ground when not powered.)

Therefore, we'll take the RED wire from the heaters and connect it to the WHITE wire of the Heat-troller. Now we'll take the WHITE and BLUE wires of the heaters (yes, both) and connect them to the BLUE wire of the Heat-troller.

The effect? Both the high and low circuits of the heaters will now be controlled by the Heat-troller.

No, I haven't gone into complete installation of the Heat-troller control unit and electronics box. We're back again to planning and execution. Where and how it'll fit on your bike is your problem and it's based on your situation and desired application.

DualStar is located here. DualStar can get both the grips and the Heat-troller, but they don't keep them in stock so they're sorta slow at delivery. Their site is also a little difficult to navigate, so I've given you the shortcut to the heater page.

Warmnsafe is located here. Warmnsafe sells a complete kit with the controller and the heaters for $80. They seem pretty responsive. Here's the shortcut to their heater/controller page.

Use the comments sheet to ask questions and I'll try to include the answers by updating this article.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

De-rusting your fuel tank

I got this procedure from the PNWRiders group on Yahoo. It was written by BCMiller. I haven't tested it, but this might be a terrific way to solve one of the most difficult (and common) problems with motorcycle restorations.

Since the entire process only seems to take 10 minutes, a creative soul might be able to do this with a car battery (or the whole car) instead of a charger. But even with a "car" rig I'd add an ammeter and a resettable / thermal breaker for protection.

Here's the procedure: (Edited for format and readability only.)

"Here's a repost of a method I used quite successfully. I adapted it from a technique used by antique outboard restorers. There's no dangerous chemicals to spill; a consideration for me since I: a) live on a lake, and b) drink from a well.

There's also no ball bearings or nuts to recover afterwards.

You need:
1) 10 amp battery charger
2) Duct tape
3) A box of salt
4) Water
5) Funnel
6) A piece of steel rod
7) Electrical tape
8) Methyl hydrate
9) Light oil.

A) Prep the tank by removing the petcock and gauge sender.
B) Clean the paint work around the holes well and cover the holes with duct tape.
C) Stuff rags inside the hump to re-inforce the duct tape over the sender holes.
D) Pre-mix the saline electrolyte using most of a box of table salt to 5 gallons of water.
E) Fill the tank.
F) Tape up the end of a steel rod so it cannot short out against the tank bottom. (I was told re-bar, but used all-thread ready rod which worked just fine)
G) Connect the negative lead of a 10 amp battery charger to bare metal on the tank (I used the gas cap mounting screw so as not to damage any paint).
H) Place a wide-mouth plastic (non-conducting) funnel in the fill hole and put the rod in the tank through the funnel.
I) Connect the positive lead to the electrode. It's best to use a charger with an ammeter. Mine just has a silly voltmeter gauge, so I connected the positive lead through a separate ammeter.
J) Add salt as required to bring the current up to 10 amps. (The best I got was 9.4 amps, more salt didn't help after that).
K) Check every 2 minutes, and stop when the rust is gone. (It got so murky, I couldn't see the hump after a while unless I sloshed out some of the water and tipped the tank. I don't know how they do this with a marine tank and still check it.)

Total time for me on this tank was about 10 minutes.I was amazed at the results. Where there was heavy rusting, clean shiny metal magically appeared. I used a piece of cad-plated ready-rod for the electrode, and it turned black. The saline turned a weird shade of green,with chunks of rust floating around. I was concerned that the left half of the tank wouldn't get equal treatment, and I made a point of draining off some water and sloshing it around to evenly distribute the salt, and an examination through the fuel gauge hole confirms it worked on that side too. None the less, I think next time I would start off with a saline solution instead of plain water, now that I know how much salt to use (just about 1 box to get 9.4 amps).

I also blew a fuse in my ammeter when I inadvertently touched the rod against the hump in the middle of the tank trying to stir the salt with the electrode. I guess with a motorcycle tank, not only the bottom of the rod should be insulated with electrical tape, but part way up where it might contact the hump as well.

I flushed everything out thoroughly with water after, followed with methyl hydrate. Even so, I could see a faint patina of rust starting to form again within 15 minutes. I quickly coated the inside with oil, and that took care of that."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Long trip advice.

I recently returned from a 1600 mile round trip from Seattle, WA to Dawson Creek, BC, Canada. Dawson Creek is where the AlCan Highway starts/ends. I went with two friends whose intention was to continue on into Alaska. Their ultimate destination was Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It's the closest a person can get to the North Pole by vehicle in North America.

Their round trip from Dallas, TX to Prudhoe Bay and back was just a bit over 10,000 miles. Yes, ten thousand!

Here's a pic of us leaving my house. Click on the pic if you want to see a larger version.

In comparison, my little 1600 mile jaunt wasn't more than a simple ride through the woods. We were on good roads in great weather, so my 'hardships' consisted of paying over $100 a night for mediocre hotel rooms. It didn't qualify as a trip I'd tell young people about. However, I was reminded of a few handy things to remember when travelling longish distances.

Clothes: Fewer is better. Figure out what you'll actually wear and stick to it. Yes, there's an obvious need to dress in layers so you can regulate your temperature/comfort, but there's no real need to bring 8 days of clothing on a 4 day trip. Just as a safety margin, I always bring an additional ONE of everything I'm wearing in case of an emergency, but it's really retarded to bring 5 shirts and 5 pair of pants on a 2 day trip.

Emergency stuff: Bring it. No, you can't tow your entire tool cabinet behind the bike, but you should have enough stuff to do a reasonable imitation of MacGyver. If you're not mechano-ventive like our hero, bring credit cards and a "get out of jail free" card from AAA or the HSTA. Fix it or tow it. Don't just leave it if something happens.

Cool stuff: Get yourself a roll of Velcro ONE-WRAP in 1" width. This is Velcro strapping with the hooks on one side and the loops on the other side of the strap. This allows you to Velcro the strap to itself! You can make long straps or short straps and since it's got the loop (fuzzy) part on one side, you can strap something to your bike with a product that's self padding and won't scratch the paint! Just Google "velcro one wrap". It's available pretty cheaply on eBay too.

In general: I know I have a tendency to think "I have space so I should fill it." This isn't a good idea when you're travelling. Yes, it might be nice to have something extra in your luggage, but using up all your free space, then adding a tank bag, tail bag, saddle bags and topcase isn't all that much fun. It's a pain to pack. It's a pain to unpack. It's a pain to carry into your hotel room at night, and it's a pain to keep dry. What I'm saying here is, pack what you need and don't start to think you need additional farkles/luggage just because it's possible to add them. Yes, my FJR can carry the equivalent of an efficiency apartment, but there's no need to.

Tunes: I have an iPod Shuffle and several sets of earphones, including custom moulded ones. There is a level of discomfort any time I have earphones in my ears inside my helmet. The helmet moves and that makes the earphones move, and the whole thing makes my ears hurt. What does that mean? It means the tunes don't give me enough enjoyment to offset the eventual discomfort and pain of earphones. I ride like I've ridden for the last 37 years - listening to nothing but wind and road noise. It's not a bad environment.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Armor All has only one use on a motorcycle.

By now I hope you've learned that Armor All has no practical purpose on a motorcycle. If you Armor All the tires, you'll fall down. If you Armor All the seat, you'll slide off the back or bust the twins against the back of the tank. Armor All shouldn't be used on a motorcycle AT ALL except for one place.

The headlights.

Yeah, it sounds funny, but Armor All makes the bugs come off really easily. I'm not a great fan of using it on painted surfaces so I don't recommend applying it to the entire front of your motorcycle. I also don't think the stuff is optically clear enough, so I don't recommend it for windshields...... but on headlights, it's great stuff.

Monday, June 25, 2007

New bike, new farkles.

I recently bought an FJR1300. Obviously it needed setup and some farkles. I did the setup according to the rest of the posts here, but the farkles were kinda special. Click on the pic if you want it larger.

Installing the Garmin Quest II GPS was step number one, and an automotive type cruise control was #2 on the list.

These required creation/installation of an electrical subpanel hidden on the inside of the bodywork. I elected to do the installation according to the ideas and experiences of some of the long distance riders on the FJR board. Essentially, the entire subpanel is only hot after the key is turned on.

Let's follow the current from the positive lead of the battery.

The first component is an auto-reset 30 amp fuse. If I draw more than 30 amps, the fuse will trip, and then reset a few seconds later.

The second component in the supply is a 30 amp relay in the normally open condition. Unless the relay is activated, there is no current going past the relay.

The third component is a fuse block. Some people use marine type fuse blocks that provide connections for both the positive and negative leads, but I didn't think this was necessary since the frame of the bike provides a perfectly adequate ground (negative lead) for most components. The fuse block I used has 6 outputs that are protected by 6 seperate fuses.

Now, the trick is that we're supplying a max of 30 amps to the fuse block, so theoretically, the total amperage of all installed fuses shoudn't be more than 30 amps, correct? Truth be told, it can be more than 30 amps if you KNOW you won't be using more than 30 amps at a the same time.

However, I don't want or need to do the math in my feeble little head every time I turn something on, so I'm planning to only supply fuses totalling 30 amps.

Note I said "planning" in the paragraph above. Remember, I have 6 outputs and I only have two farkles. (The GPS and the cruise control) So at this point, I'm only using two outputs.

Let's see.... 30 amps divided by two outputs means I can use two 15 amp fuses, right? NOT! I've used correct sized fuses for each component. Basically, I have 3 amp fuses in each slot. See, the intention is to protect the wiring and the devices on each output.

I'll consider pictures next time I get under the dash.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Buying a bike.

I just finished reading a thread on an email list about buying a new motorcycle. Some of the information in the thread was completely nuts.

As an ex car salesman and ex motorcycle salesman, I'd like to share some trememdous secrets with you.

1) The XYZR at dealer A is no different from the XYZR at dealer B.
2) The dealer only has the XYZR(s) you see on his floor today.
3) You have access to every XYZR in your shopping area.
4) The dealer wants to sell his XYZR as soon as possible.

So, you're probably thinking you might have the upper hand when it comes to buying a new motorcycle from a dealership. Truth is: YOU DO.

Here are the rules for buying vehicles:

1) NEVER, EVER fall in love with a vehicle. If you do, you'll get yourself screwed on the price.
2) Stand up and walk out of the dealership if you don't get the price you want.
3) Other dealerships are willing to deal at your price. Shop around.

And finally, when it comes to buying motorcycles specifically: "Dealer setup" and "Prep" charges are completely bogus. The manufacturer already pays the dealership something for these services. Anything else the dealership charges are just extra profit. Don't pay them.

Oh, one last thing. On the subject of financing. Dealers DO get paid a fee for arranging financing. That fee, and any associated profit, is never included in the actual sales transaction that's completed prior to arranging financing. Therefore, the amount(s) shown on the sales order are the actual sales prices and details of the transaction. If signed, it is a completely binding contract and you are under no obligation to finance thru the dealership (or at all).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Audio Mixers

Audio mixers can sometimes be used as the core of a motorcycle communication system if you do a little bit of 'home brew'. Here are links to a couple of major players (and one inexpensive smaller player who's very amenable to customization*) in the motorcycle sound mixer market.

Mixit Products -
xma3 from Tesseract -
* -


Here are links for motorcycle communication systems. Remember, you get what you pay for. Cheaper products deliver less than the more expensive products. Search the web for feedback on these. If you know of any others, let me know in a comment.

Autocom -
Starcom -
Baehr -
J&M -
Chatterbox -

For what it's worth, I prefer hand signals......

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I'm not going to repeat the pages and pages of information available on the net about suspension setup. Dozens of people have written complete tomes with details and explanations of the how and why. Here's a good example:

But I'm going to render an opinion about suspension that's obviously contrary to what most people think is the objective of suspension setup.

The objective is to make the suspension COMPLY with the surface of the road. COMPLIANCE is the key, the objective, the goal, nirvana.

Compliance happens when the tires follow the complete surface of the road, never leaving, always in nicely planted contact, regardless of how the road heaves, buckles, or bumps.

Perfect compliance is impossible, but improvement is relatively simple to attain.

So I'm going to start with a visualization. We've all driven empty pickup trucks. They're stiffly suspended in back so they can haul big loads, but when they're unladen, they handle like crap. The back end bounces all over every bump and it's obvious that the rear wheels aren't complying with the road surface. There is very little compliance when it's needed.

So why do so many people set up their motorcycles to be stiffly suspended? 99.9% of the time you're on your bike, you're not headed for Road Atlanta's old "Gravity Cavity" at 150 miles an hour! You're in a world where you don't have to worry about bottoming out both ends of your machine at the same time!

And so, I say "let your suspension work". You should set up your bike so the suspension actually moves. If the manufacturer gave you 4" of travel up front, then you should be using 3.9" of travel when you do a stoppie! If you got 6" of travel in back, you should be using 4" (yes, only 4) when you're under full acceleration! (Leave 2" for a passenger.) You should never "bottom out" unless you're goofy enough to do a stoppie into a chuck-hole, but for heaven's sake, use what you've got!

Suspension travel is a gift. Use it.

On the subject of ride height, pitch, static sag, and front / rear balance, tire profile and height, I leave you to the internet. It's such a subtle science and so highly personal in its acceptance and results, it's not worth going into here. As an example of how exotic this pseudo-science is, I give you any set of race results. Take two racers on similar bikes..... one does well and the other does poorly from the same stable..... Is it the bike? The rider? The setup? Is the setup actually "the bike"? Isn't the rider responsible for determining setup? Did he read the calibrations on his ass correctly for his seat-of-the-pants testing runs?

See what I mean? It's not always something you can write in stone. There are lots of facts and there are a thousand opinions on each of those facts.

So my bit of 'wisdom' for you is simply to use most of the suspension travel you're given. Go for compliance and then always be smooth. Your ass will thank me and your results should improve on both the street and the track.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What is a track day?

What's a track day? Let me start this whole thing off by saying, "A track day is whatever you want it to be."

First, let's examine the simple facts. A track day takes place on a closed circuit course. Generally, these are called racetracks, but in a technical sense, the course where you took your first motorcycle class was also a closed circuit course. I only mention this to help you understand that a racetrack doesn't have to be a scary place.

Track days are supervised events. Crew, corner workers, staff, and safety personnel are all there for the participant's benefit.

Each individual signs up and participates in specific group sessions at the track. Most track organizations allow each group to circulate the track for a period of 20 minutes, after which, the participants get a 40 minute break.

Most track days have groups divided into three different levels of participation.

A) The highest group would be an open class / racing type of event with very few limitations on speed, passing, or other regulations. This is NOT an environment for anyone without real racing experience.

B) The intermediate group is designed for participation by those with a reasonable amount of experience at the track. Passing is allowed under certain circumstances in the corners and is always allowed on the straight parts of the track. Participants in this group tend to be those who want to improve their skills and speed in a less restrictive environment, but without the free-for-all of the open class group.

C) The safest group is organized for those who want the opportunity to ride as fast as they feel comfortable, and without any pressure from other riders in the group. There are generally some strict rules that prohibit passing in corners, and anyone who exhibits agressive riding in this group is generally moved into the intermediate group for everyone's benefit.

From a speed standpoint, the safest group is generally no different from a group you might ride with on the street. However, there's a huge difference in safety between riding at the track and riding on the street. Road hazards are highly unusual at the track. You won't find gravel in the corners and squirrels don't generally leap out at you from the bushes. Further, there are no grannies in Buicks or cellphone-using minivan moms on the track. Finally, there is always an emergency crew at the track. This means the response time for an accident is at least 10 times better than one might experience on the street!

So, I'm not going to beg you to go to a track day, but I'm going to ask some questions you have to ask yourself......

1) If I go out to ride in the hills with my buds today, what COULD happen?
2) If I go to a supervised track day with my buds today, what COULD happen?

And finally, 3) Why haven't we been doing track days for years?

Just FYI - track day promotors allow visitors to show up and watch for free. Find out when there's a track day in your area and just go watch. You'll see it's a pretty calm and tame affair.

I hope to see you out there some day soon. Oh, where do you find out about track days in your area? Ask your local motorcycle dealer or use that thing they call the INTERNET. ;-)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Quick Tips Bundle!

This is a group of Quick Tips I wrote for a motorcycle group in Dallas several years ago.

Lubing your Chain
Whenever you return from a ride on your motorcycle, grab your can of chain lube and shoot the visible part of the chain at the back of the sprocket. Chain lube works best on warm chains. If you get in the habit of doing this after every ride, your chain will stay lubed all the way around and you won't have to hassle with lubing the complete chain all at once.

Polishing your Motorcycle
For years, motorcycle dealerships have used Pledge™ spray furniture wax to keep their showrooms shiny. It's easier and cheaper than most commercial motorcycle polishes. The wipes are also handy to keep under your seat or in your bike's luggage! Certainly Honda Spray works well too, but it's supposedly not produced any more, so if you find a can, BUY IT.

Parking on a Hill
Most people know this already, but when you park on a grade, you should back your motorcycle into position, letting gravity help you. If done correctly, you can simply ride away when it's time to leave instead of having to back the motorcycle uphill. On the same note, I always park my motorcycle with the transmission left in first gear. This prevents the motorcycle from rolling forward and falling off the sidestand.

Parking on Hot Asphalt
Hot asphalt is a very weak support for your expensive motorcycle. If you use the sidestand on hot asphalt during the summer, you risk the chance of returning to a motorcycle that has fallen over. The solution is simple. Find something to put under your sidestand so that the size of the head is increased. This could be a soda can you've crushed underfoot, or any other piece of detritus laying around on the parking lot. Many places sell steel plates designed for this purpose, and you might want to buy one of these if you park in spotless areas. If all else fails, simply carry a piece of steel about the same size and thickness as a credit card.

Tankbags and Saddlebags
Make sure your bike is clean and freshly waxed, then put a clean towel or felt fabric between your motorcycle and any tankbags or temporary saddlebags you're using. This will help prevent microscopic scratches that will dull the paint.

Disc Locks
Many of us use disc locks to protect our motorcycles from theft. The downside to these locks is that forgetting to remove one before riding off can be expensive or painful. A bit of yarn or a rubber band serves as a nice reminder that you have to unlock the lock. Simply put the rubber band or yarn around the throttle as a reminder. When you take the lock off, the rubber band or yarn can be stored around the lock.

Washing your Helmet
Besides the obvious hygienic issues, a stanky helmet is uncomfortable to use and won't last long before the foam and materials start to disintegrate. Here's how I wash mine.

Close all the vents in the helmet and put the visor down if it has one
Turn the helmet upside down in the kitchen sink
Turn on the water and fill the helmet as much as possible
Add regular shampoo (without conditioner)
Swish, swirl, and scrub the oils and salts out of the fabric
Pour the helmet out, then rinse thoroughly by the same method
Dry the helmet in the oven at a temperature not exceeding 120 F.

You might wanna wait a while and let the helmet cool before you stick it on your noggin. 120 degree buckles might leave a mark!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Finding gear.

This is just a thought.... something that might be helpful for those trying to acquire gear that works while motorcycling:

Consider camping and hunting gear. In fact, consider anything that's outdoor related. Campers, hunters, sportspersons, and athletes often have the same issues we have. We're all exposed to the elements and we all enjoy a bit of comfort.

So, some ideas......

Underwear - a subject very few of us broach, but you'll find it's a highly discussed topic among long-distance riders. In general, it should be supportive but not too tight. Ideally it will have no seams you have to sit on. For comfort, it should wick moisture away from your skin quickly. Cold weather or hot, your underwear is the foundation of your layered clothing package.
  1. Some types of baseball shorts are lycra based, highly supportive, and come with hip pads sewn into them. They're relatively inexpensive and are available at most sporting goods stores in the spring and summer.
  2. Silk, lycra, or merino wool longjohns are options that should be considered for every rider in every environment. UnderArmour makes "Heat Gear" designed to keep athletes cooler and these can be worn underneath full race suits to considerable advantage. Merino wool longjohns help keep a rider warmer without bunching up in the middle like a two-piece.

Rain suits and rain gear - These don't have to be motorcycle specific, but in all honesty, it helps. I can't think of another sport where the rain comes at you with such speed and always from a singular direction. Alternatives will work in the short-term, but a moto-specific suit will generally be better suited for our application.

Ski gear, such as balaclavas and neck protectors - These are generally grafted into service for motorcycles. I'm not aware of a single company that sells its head and neck products exclusively to the motorcycle market.

Gloves, boots, leathers, and helmets - This is a tender subject because these things are pretty exclusive to our sport. Is there another sport where you might possibly put your body on the pavement at 100 miles an hour? In any case, this kind of gear is expensive. On the other hand, this kind of gear is a super bargain when compared to skin grafting or death. Do the research and buy what you want. There are way too many options and possibilities for me to discuss them here. If you can't afford basic protective gear, you can't afford motorcycling.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Blue painter's tape.

Blue painter's tape? WTF? Why would any motorcyclist need blue painter's tape?

Simple. It makes a very nice 'helmet visor' when you're riding toward the sun!

I use a 8-10 inch piece that's been folded over slightly on both ends. I stick it to my face shield at the right position to block the sun. Then I tip my head a bit if I need to move it a little.

If I need to move it a lot, I just reach up and move it to a good spot. (Yes, you have to be able to ride with 'no hands' if you don't wanna pull over.)

So why painter's tape specifically? It doesn't leave anything on your visor and it's easy to move and remove. You won't need much, so don't bother taking a full roll on a trip. In fact, just a few pre-made strips stuck to the inside top of a saddle bag or topcase should work for most people. My recommendation is to use 1 inch wide tape. You're going to put it very close to your eyes, so the 1 inch width is effectively much wider than it seems from the outside.

Here's a pic of it in use. Nothing spectacular. Just a piece of tape.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Trip tips.

Lots of us think about taking trips on our motorcycles. Few of us think about how to make it easier. Here are a few trip tips that might help.

Maintenance and emergencies - Get it done before you go. You'd be surprised how many adventures are curtailed because of a bad chain and sprockets, worn-out brake pads, or bad tires. Consider the distance you have to travel (round trip) and determine if the consumables are going to last. Think ahead. If your tires will only last 1000 miles and you're taking a 2000 mile trip, what's your plan?

On this same subject, what's the status of your tool kit? Do you have one? Does it include everything you need? I keep a toolkit in my R1 that consists of:

  1. two 12mm combo wrenches for chain adjustment
  2. one 10mm combo wrench (just because)
  3. one combo screwdriver (1/4 inch drive mini)
  4. one pair of pliers
  5. one factory axle nut wrench and extension
  6. one 6mm hex wrench (fits seat and all other body fittings)
  7. one tire repair kit (plug type)
  8. one mini air compressor
  9. one tire gauge
  10. a couple of sharps (single edged razor blades, small and effective)
  11. a hand pumped siphon (sportbike tanks aren't very big)

Supplies - There are things you need to bring with you to maintain the motorcycle. One of these is chain lube if you have a chain driven motorcycle. (If you bring it, make sure you use it.) Some of you might bring along a quart or two of your favorite motor oil. Do you need a funnel for the oil? Others will bring a cleaner and polishing cloth. In this case, bring what you need and be prepared to leave the "nice to have" stuff behind. Motor oil and cleaner can be bought almost everywhere, so stashing it and hauling is falls under your own personal "nice to have".

Comfort and convenience - Gear storage is always an issue on a motorcycle trip. For some strange reason, lots of rookie travellers think it's OK to carry all their gear in a backpack on their backs. Wrong! Backpacks are OK for short trips to the store or work, but they're hell on your shoulders after a few hours. The solution? Bungee cords! Bungee the backpack (and all your other gear) to the passenger seat and tail of your motorcycle. Yes, it will change the handling a little bit, but believe me, it's the way you want to go.

General safety - First and foremost, stay hydrated. Buy a CamelBak or other hydration device. Drink water regularly even if you don't feel thirsty. It's easy to become dehydrated on a motorcycle...... there's a lot of air passing over you and water evaporates off your skin at a tremendous rate. It's common for endurance racers to lose 5 pounds of water weight over a couple of hours on their bikes....

For the same reasons, you should keep your skin covered even in the summer when it might seem smart to let a bunch of air down your chest..... The truth is that you need to protect yourself from dehydration. Being warm might be uncomfortable, but being dehydrated can be deadly.

Cell phones, medical alert bracelets / dogtags, or info cards should be where they can do the most good when needed. My cell phone has specific entries called "Home", "ICE", and "Ed (lastname) ICE". ICE is becoming a standard cell phone entry for "In Case of Emergency". Use it and set it up right now!

Info cards are easy to make. We all use computers, so go into Word and just type out all the info you think an emergency responder might need to know. Format isn't terribly important and neither is your blood type if you don't know it. There's no excuse for not having an info card.

Ok now, general info tips:

Plastic bags are your friends. Ziploc freezer bags are your best friend. Large black plastic lawn bags are your second best friend. Plastic bags do two very important things. They keep stuff out and they keep stuff in. That may sound like "DUH!" info, but consider the practicality of keeping stuff contained and/or keeping stuff protected. Plastic bags do both. Use them.

A couple of shop towels never killed anybody. It never hurts to have at least a light duty first aid kit. And as stated elsewhere in this blog - examination gloves - they're just handy.

Paperwork! If you're travelling outside your state of residence, take your registration (or state equivalent) with you. Certainly if you're travelling outside the country, find out what your documentary and insurance requirements are in advance. You don't need to be doing this kinda stuff at the border.

Clothes....... consider the weather possibilities wherever you're headed. Dress in layers so you can modify your heat retention options. Try to wear fairly tight clothes with elastic or closeable wrists, neck and torso. You want to eliminate "flapping" as you ride through the wind and you want to reduce the amount of air that enters your layers at the wrists, neck, and torso. Flapping causes fatigue of the rider and the clothes. Air entry reduces the ability of the clothes to retain your body heat. You also want to reduce the amount of evaporation so you don't become dehydrated. Visibility is a desirable feature of your outermost layer.

Ok, so I've gathered all this stuff..... and it fits in my 33 liter Givi topcase (or the backpack you might have bungee'd to the passenger seat)....... and damn, it takes up a lot of room! Where am I gonna put street clothes and some underwear?

Simple. Roll them up individually and stick them wherever they fit. Then get rid of a bunch of your "nice to have" stuff from above, and roll some more clothes up and stick them wherever they fit. Repeat if necessary.

This isn't an exact science...... I just offer these ideas and methods for consideration.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More adjustments

Sean wrote again from Texas with the following info. I agree with him completely and not all of us think about these things. Here's his gently edited email.

It's funny how much time I spend prepping a new bike. I get a bike and then spend a bunch of time in the garage on the first day of ownership. Everything you mentioned I adjust. Sometimes, I'll even need to lightly bend the front master cylinder reservoir bracket just to get the hose to reach the new position of the perch.

On the 14, I actually needed to adjust the rear brake light switch because it wouldn't come on until very late. Not that I use much rear brake in most situations, but it only takes one time to get rearended.

Also, the throttle typically has too much play, though that doesn't add to riding comfort.

Finally, the projection headlights on bikes are typically too low for nighttime driving through corners when you're stuck in the dark. Adjusting the low beams to shine straight ahead for a couple 100 ft typically solves this problem, while not blinding oncoming traffic too badly. When riding in the corners, highbeams are still necessary to get light in front of you, but at that point the highbeams are pointing slightly upward and compensate well for the bike's lowered nose.

Thanks for the tips Sean!

I want to add one little thing to the headlight adjustment issue. Most Yamaha projection headlights have a very drastic cut-off point at the top of the beam pattern. If you shine your low beams against a building or garage door, you'll find that there's lots of light where the projectors want it to be, but there's virtually no light above a specific line.

Unfortunately, Yamaha delivers their bikes with the cutoff point at almost exactly the same height as the side view mirrors of the average car. So, as you bounce down the road behind Mr. and Mrs. Cager, your headlights seem to flash in his mirrors. Lots of light / almost no light as the cut-off point passes above and below their mirrors.

I've been given the finger, I've been sworn at, and I've been given the "fake swerve" because of this. The most common and irritating reaction I get is that the cager slows down to about 5 below the speed limit because he thinks he's being pulled over.

None of this has been a problem since I lowered the cut-off point just a little bit so it stays below their mirrors. I have high beams if I wanna flash them now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Controls - adjustment.

Lots of people don't know that the controls on a motorcycle are extremely adjustable. They accept the way the bike is delivered to them, and adapt their riding to the inaccurate settings of an assembly person at the dealership. This is not a good thing.

Motorcycles are 'pianissimo' machines, not 'fortissimo' like trucks. Very small control inputs can make huge differences in the way a motorcycle operates. Put your controls in the wrong space and you might get an undesirable result. So, let's investigate some of the controls.

I'm assuming you have some mechanical skills here. I'm not going to cover step-by-step details on which way to turn nuts and bolts. Get a friend to help you if you need it.

The brake and clutch lever angle (up and down) is the setting that's most commonly wrong as delivered. In a perfect world, there would be a straight line from your elbow to your finger tips and your controls would lie under that straight line. On a sportbike, that line may extend from your shoulder to your elbow to your fingertips. See what I mean in the pic below.

See the straight line that goes all the way down my arm and extends through the tip of my fingers? In order to get this straight line, you need to adjust the angle of the controls. Basically, just loosen their clamps and rotate them on the bars until the levers are where you want them. Some motorcycle manufacturers make this extremely difficult because they put locator pins in the clamps. You can easily remove the locator pins to get the levers where you want them. It's worth the effort.

Here is a pic of the clamp and bolt for the R1 clutch.

The bolt is almost directly in the center of the pic. Loosening this bolt will allow you rotate the clutch lever up and down on the bar. Remember to tighten this bolt again after adjustment!

The same basic setting should be made for the front brakes. Here is a pic of the bolts and clamp for the front master cylinder and lever assembly.

The correct bolts for the R1 are the chromed pair located between the red 'kill' switch and the gold suspension adjuster in the pic. Normally you will only need to loosen one of these to get the assembly to rotate. Again, some manufacturers use locator pins to prevent adjustments, but you can remove the pins to make this right.

If you've checked your work and made sure you like where this adjustment is set, then make sure your bolts and clamps are tight and let's move on.

Now you can adjust the beginning position of the levers. In other words, you can adjust where the levers are 'at rest' when your hand isn't on them. I should note that this adjustment also changes the point at which the lever stops moving. If we change the point where it starts moving, it will also change the point where it stops moving. Why is it important to know that? Because, if you adjust these settings too far, the clutch might not disengage completely, and /or the brakes may not engage completely when you pull them all the way in. In any case, make sure your adjustments don't have undesirable effects from excessive adjustment. Normally, adjustments of 1/2 inch are at the extreme limit of what I would consider acceptable. Anything over 1/2 inch is probably very risky. Take care with this.

Here is a pic of the front brake adjuster on the R1. The small black knob allows you to change the distance between the bar and the lever when at rest. Adjusting this knob can be very helpful for people with small hands.

Some motorcycles have a similar adjustment for the clutch lever. In general, these machines use hydraulic clutch actuators. See your operator's manual for instructions.

On some motorcycles with cable actuated clutches (such as the R1), the clutch engagement point can be changed. Within limits, this has the effect of making the space between the bar and the clutch lever smaller (or larger) if desired. Note that if this adjustment is taken too far, the clutch will not completely disengage when the lever is pulled in. This can result in an accident or clutch failure. Make sure your clutch completely disengages if you adjust this setting very far.

Here is a pic of the R1 adjuster. It's the large aluminum wheel in the center of the pic. Simply turn it to make the lever engage at a point closer or further than it does now.

Now the hand controls are done. You've checked your work, verified everything still works correctly, and you've made sure everything is tight and 'perfect'. Let's move on to foot controls.

Huh? You can adjust the foot controls? Yup, you sure can. You can adjust the engagement point of the rear brake, and you can adjust the upshift/downshift point of the transmission. (Most motorcycles won't let you adjust the position of the footrests without an accessory kit designed for this task.)

Here's some info on the rear brake. You can adjust the position of the brake lever 'at rest'. It can be set so that rear brake is actuated pretty hard right after your foot touches the pedal, or it can be adjusted to require a lot of effort to actuate. Being perfectly honest, I've never had to adjust this setting on a streetbike with a hydraulic rear brake. Yours is probably fine, but you can adjust it if you want. WARNING - misadjusting the rear brake for early and aggressive actuation can make the brakes fail to disengage when you release them. I DO NOT RECOMMEND ADJUSTING THE REAR BRAKE FOR MORE AGGRESSIVE ACTUATION.

However, some people like to adjust their rear brake so it takes some extra effort to make it 'lock up'. These people often wear heavy boots and / or don't have much sensitivity in their feet. If you're one of those people and you've had problems locking up the rear wheel when braking, you can adjust the brake pedal downward so it takes more of your foot and ankle motion to get the brake to actuate. The adjuster is here. If you 'shorten' the threaded distance of the adjuster, the brake lever will require much more travel before actuation.

Again, check your work and make sure everything still functions correctly. Now we can move on to the shifter adjustment.

For the shifter, we're going to change the 'at rest' position. This will also change the spot at which it upshifts and downshifts. If you wear really thick boots (like hiking boots with thick soles) you might need to move the shifter upward so your boot fits under the shifter. On the other hand, if you wear boots with really thin soles and have smaller feet, you might need to move the shifter down so you don't miss any upshifts (actually quite common). Here are some pics of both ends of the adjuster rod on the R1. Most bikes have something similar nowdays. Simply increase or decrease the effective length of the rod to move the pedal up or down. Up for thick shoes, down for thin ones.

Ok, now you've looked at a bunch of extreme detail pics of my personal scooter. You've seen a bit of dirt and some surface rust. I realize some people will think I'm a complete lowlife for letting nature take its course, but hey, it's surface rust. I live in Seattle. It rains. I ride. Tough dookie. Maybe I'll get around to fixing it someday.