Saturday, 19 May 2018

Tiger Motorcycle Pixel Art

My son came up with this pixel art 8-bit image of the two of us on the Tiger.  I'd asked him for something I could use as the icon on the website (they appear in the tab at the top of the browser).

I did a bit of beveling on it in Photoshop and then cropped and reshaped it into a square image under 100kb (requirements for an icon).

The end result looks pretty good, I think.  If you're reading this on a browser with tabs, you should see Max's 8-bit art at the top.  From the original art on the right I made up a poster, then cropped the bike with us on it, then made the square icon you see at the top.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

A New Roof

My son's ever growing head meant that his Shark Raw helmet has gotten too small.  He tried out my Desmo the other day and liked it, so I started thinking about a second French lid.  Thanks to some excellent service by ChromeBurner, I've now got a new Roof!

Rather than go with a Desmo again, I thought I'd go for the classic Boxer.  This helmet feels a bit more old school than the Desmo.  The chin guard latches snap on to lock it down and the visor and chin guard mechanism seems much simpler.  The Desmo works on two different cams and the mechanisms to raise the visor and chin guard swing on two seperate arcs; it's a complicated thing.  The Boxer chin guard swings on the same hinge as the visor, both on a single pivot.

The Boxer is lighter, probably due to that simplicity.  It's spacious and the visor feels as big as the one on the Desmo, which is one of my favourite things about Roof mechanical helmets, you never feel like you're looking through a letter-box opening.  Even when they're closed they feel spacious and the view is first class.

I miss the one touch chin opening on the Desmo.  The two button Boxer design is fiddly and nothing like as smooth and easy to use, though once I get used to it, switching between open and closed while in motion shouldn't be too hard.

The best thing about the Boxer is the visor I got with it.  The less fiddly hinge means switching visors is much less complex than in the Desmo, and this iridium visor with it's layered tint and reflective surface is a joy to look through.

I spent ten minutes looking for a fancy tool like the Desmo requires to change visors only to discover the Boxer's visor snaps in.  Riding into the sun is easily manageable thanks to the range of tint across the visor, but the tint is so light  you can still see well in shadowy areas too.  I suspect it'll be easier to see through than the dark smoked visor I have on the Desmo.

I enjoyed my ride today with the Boxer.  It's an eye catching helmet that got a lot of looks.  The view out of it is expansive and I think it ventilates better than the Desmo - I never once got fog on the visor, a constant thing with the Desmo which I often ride with cracked open.  It's comfortable, light and at least as quiet as the old Desmo.  It seems to have the same aerodynamic qualities too with no tugging or turbulence and, like the Desmo, seems impervious to cross winds.

All of this has me wondering what the new RO32 Desmo and Boxer Carbon are like.  The RO32 promises a quieter, more comfortable experience, which would make my favourite helmet even better.  The orange and black one looks fantastic, and even offers the iridium reflective visor now that I'm enjoying so much on the Boxer.  The Carbon Boxer is even more astonishingly lighter and looks to have a more complex locking mechanism and a higher level of finish than the regular Boxer.

Closer than ever to living my Jo Sinnott dream...
Chromeburner, based in the Netherlands, got the Roof to me here in Canada within ten days of ordering and the whole process was very transparent, letting me know exactly where it is at any time.  When I contacted them, customer service was accurate and immediate, international shipping was free and duties paid were cheaper than I expected; I'll happily use Chromeburner again.

I'm in the process of selling off some old helmets that don't fit or get used much, which means the new Roof cost even less.  All in with taxes, duties and shipping, the Boxer with iridium visor cost less than $550 Canadian.  There are no equivalent helmets for sale in Canada.  Most modular/flip up helmets only rise to the forehead, meaning they are very uncomfortable if ridden open at any speed as they catch the wind like a sail.  They also tend to be much heavier than the Roof options.  The Roof chinbar rotates to the back of the helmet, out of the wind blast.  In open/jet mode, you often forget it's there until you need it.  No buffeting or awkward weight distribution to worry about.    Next time my son and I are out two-up, we'll both be in Roofs.

I'd love a Carbon Boxer, but it's an expensive proposition.  I suspect a new-model Desmo will be next on my lid-wishlist.  It's nice to have found a helmet that is light, comfortable and meets my picky needs around large viewing area, the flexibility to work as an open or close faced helmet and manages to do all that while still meeting full face safety standards.  The fact that I love the aeronautical look of these things is a nice bonus.  I just wish I had a chance to try out the new Desmo and Carbon Boxer.

It was a nice ride up and down the banks of the Grand River today.  You don't get to see
any of that because the craptastic Samsung Gear360 I'm stuck with at the moment didn't
film any of it because I couldn't see the pointlessly small and useless LEDs on it.
I miss my Ricoh Theta!  Add a ThetaV to my Boxer Carbon and Desmo RO32 wishlist.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

A Perfect Ride

Sun's going down...
Last fall I took my last ride of  2017 on a strangely warm November day over to Higher Ground at the Forks of the Credit.  The sun fell out of the sky on my way home before 5pm - winter was coming.

The next day temperatures plunged and by the weekend we were looking at minus double digits and the snow was flying.

Yesterday was my first time back there since the end of November.  The sun baked my back on the way over and then we sat out front sipping coffees and soaking up the rays.

A quick blast up and down The Forks made me realize how rusty I am with being in the right gear to make the most of a corner.  I'll be working on that in the next few weeks.

The trip home with the sun still high in the sky promises more long summer riding days to come.

The corkscrew on The Forks.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Smart Helmets

Part of my day job involves building virtual and augmented reality sets for classrooms.  I have built dozens of systems and have tried all sorts of different combinations of hardware, we even build software that uses this tech.  I get virtual and augmented reality and I'm looking forward this fighter pilot technology finding its way into motorcycle helmets.

I saw a tweet today that suggests it's already here in the Cross Helmet.  360° peripheral awareness is a great idea that will no doubt save lives, and having hands free navigational information is another valuable safety feature, but I have a questions about this revolutionary lid.

Most of the articles I've read about the Cross Helmet are by tech websites that have a hard time containing their enthusiasm about disrupting existing industries.  They typically suggest that motorcycle helmets haven't changed in decades and that they are low tech, unimaginative things created by Luddites.  It'll take the blinding talents of a technology company to interrupt those conservative curmudgeons in the helmet industry (sorry, sometimes the hyperbole around high-tech companies gets a bit tiresome).

Helmets aren't supposed to be an infotainment system, they supposed to be a light-weight, effective protective item that operates in incredibly difficult circumstances.  Helmet manufacturers have thrown everything imaginable at this problem, producing carbon fibre helmets and pushing materials engineering to the limit in creating the lightest, most protective lids possible.  They've also applied modern aerodynamic analysis to their products, producing quieter, less buffeting protection than ever before.  To call them uninspired and backwards simply isn't true.

The most concerning thing about the Cross Helmet isn't the wiz-bang technology in the thing, it's the thing itself.  That is a massive lid.  When was the last time you needed two hands to hold on to your helmet?  This size is a function of all the technology crammed into it.  A heads up display, rear facing camera, wireless connectivity, communications and the battery needed to power all that stuff weighs down the helmet and makes it big.  The actual weight of it appears to be a mystery.  Modern helmets weigh between one and two kilos, with the heaviest ones being mechanical flip top items with built in sun visors.  I can't find a weight listed for the Cross Helmet anywhere, not even on their website.

... that's all you get for technical details.
I'm guessing, based on the size and tech in the thing that it'll come in at over twice the weight of what an average helmet does, which doesn't make it a very good helmet.  On top of that, you're looking at a slab sided thing that looks like it'll catch cross winds like a sail.  You might be able to see behind you and get navigational details, but you'll be stopping often because your neck can't take it any more.

I get that the first prototype of a new design is going to have problems; this is the worst smart helmet you'll ever see because it's the first one.  As the tech gets smaller and designs improve, a smart helmet becomes a much more attractive idea, but I'm disinclined to dive into a (very) expensive helmet that is more of a concept than a usable thing.

Here is a list of some helmets currently on the market with their weights:

Arai DT-X 1619 grams (and check out the many technical details shared)
Roof Boxer Helmet 1650 grams (again with many technical details shared)
Roof Boxer Carbon 1550 grams (the lightest transformable/mechanical helmet I can find)
Nexx Carbon 1219 grams (the lightest helmet I can find)
Shark Evoline 1960 grams (the heaviest helmet I could find)

The lightest of them use every materials engineering trick in the book to produce helmets that meet stringent modern safety standards while also being comfortable, aerodynamic and long lasting.  They are anything but an old-school  product, Discovery Channel.

The Roof Carbon is the lightest transformable / mechanical helmet on the market.  It's 100 grams lighter than the standard Roof Boxer helmet - that's what you get with carbon, 100 grams.  The helmet industry is playing a game of grams, aerodynamics and safety effectiveness in a state of the art way.

If you put a 2000 gram limit on your smart helmet and required it to retain the aerodynamics and size of current lids, it would be in the vicinity of current helmets in terms of usefulness.  I doubt it's possible to cram cameras, heads up displays, communications and batteries into a helmet using today's tech, but someday soon?  Perhaps.

Under those awesome graphics are state of the art materials engineering resulting in unprecedented protection.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Motorcycle 360 Photography and Digital Art

Setting up a 360 camera on your wing mirror using a gorilla pod and setting it to automatically take a photo every few seconds seems like the best way to catch some interesting self portraits while you ride.  It's a set up and forget system so you can just enjoy the ride.

Afterwards you download what the camera caught and then frame the photos as you wish (the 360 picture lets you move the point of view around until you've framed something interesting).

I've been trying to replicate the tiny planet view that the Ricoh Theta could do in its software on the Samsung Gear360.  GoPro makes a little planet capable app that they give away for free, so I've been using that.  Here is an example of a time lapse video tiny-planeted in the GoPro software:

The photos are screen grabs of time lapse scenes on the Samsung 360gear. They've all been worked over in Photoshop to give them a more abstract look.  I've included the original photo to show variations:

Here's the original photo.
Here is a posterized, simplified version.
Here it is with an oil paint filter and a lot of post processing.

Here is a tiny-world 'wrapped' image taken with the 360 degree camera.  Below are some variations on it...

 Below are some other 360 grabs - they'll give you an idea of how you can select certain angles and moments and then crop a photo out of them pretty easily.

One of the few things the Samsung does well is make time lapse video fairly straightforward (I miss my Ricoh Theta).  The software Samsung bundles with the gear360 only works with Samsung phones (which I don't have).  The desktop software won't render 4k video at all (it ends up so blocked and pixelated from artifacts as to be almost useless).  And when you're first importing video it takes ages for the software to open a video for the first time.  By comparison the Ricoh renders video almost instantly, has never had artifact problems when it renders and has never crashed on me (the Samsung software has crashed multiple times). If you're patient and are ok with crappy results, go for the Samsung.  Meanwhile, here's what I could get out of the damned thing:

This is a 360 fly video sped up, the weekend after the April ice storm:

Software used:  Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe Lightroom CC, Paper Artist, Windows movie maker, Go-Pro VR Viewing software

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Weights and Measures

I'm always mindful of how heavy a motorcycle is, but there is a lot of static in the way. Between the splits Canadians do between the metric and imperial systems and the games played by motorcycle manufacturers, I'm often left second guessing what I think I know.

I've owned everything from feather weight KLX250s (278lbs/126kgs) to light weight Ninja 650s (393lbs/178kgs), heavy weights like the Concours (‎671lbs/305kgs) and middle weights like my current Tiger (474lbs/215kgs), but even those statistics are suspect because manufacturer's will share a dry weight (no fluids) if it's a bike that is bragging on its lightness and a wet weight (ready to ride with fuel) if it doesn't matter so much or the bike has a tiny tank and lousy range.  There is no consistency at all in this other than the marketing angles being played.  I have no idea if those numbers published on the bikes I've owned above are even equivalent.  Are they wet weight?  Dry weight?  Something else?

To try and get my head on straight I've gone looking for some stats, and found montesa_vr's work on (great site!  Check out their epic ride reports if you like to get lost in a long distance adventure).  

I took that exhaustive list of street legal dual sports and dumped them into a spreadsheet, sorting them by comma separated values.  Then I added in some handy metric/imperial connections and stats on weight of a tank of fuel, so you can see them all in one place.

one gallon of gasoline weighs 6.2 lbs.
One litre is equal to 0.264172 gallons (US liquid).
So, 1 litre = 1.6378664 lbs.
1lb = 0.453592 kgs
1 litre of gasoline = 0.7429237021194 kgs

It ain't heavy, it's my Tiger. It's obviously lighter than
the Concours I rode before it, but much heavier than
the Ninja before that. I just wish the stats were
consistent and comparable
The Tiger 955i is listed as a 215kg dry weight.  With a full tank of gasoline it's loaded up with almost 18kgs of fuel, putting it at about 233kg, yet it's listed as a 257kg wet weight.  So, that must be 18kgs of fuel and 24kgs of oil and coolant?  That seems like an awful lot of oil and coolant (and brake fluid? and what, fork oil?  How asinine does dry weight get?).  I've since been told that some manufacturer's don't include batteries in the dry weight of a bike - this is getting silly.

At 566lbs, my old Tiger would be 7th in the current crop of heavy weight adventure bikes.  I don't think it's exceptionally heavy for what it is, but it's hard to tell with the smoke and mirrors.

Dry weight is virtually meaningless, I'm astonished that it's even given as a statistic.  When would you ever need to know what a bike weighs without any fluids in it?  I couldn't run, so it's an academic statistic verging on pointless.  I also get montesa_vr's point that bikes shouldn't be punished on weight comparisons for being able to carry a reasonable amount of fuel.  Putting a peanut sized tank on a bike so you can brag about the weight seems disingenuous.

At least a wet weight comparison offers up a bike that is actually operational.  A wet weight with an empty tank seems like the obvious standard if you don't want to punish long distance capable machines, but no one seems to do it.

Case in point:  the picture on the left is from UK BIKE Magazine.  Don't expect a comparable standard in motorcycle weights.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Summer 2018: Things to do list: Horizons Unlimited Ontario Meeting

HU Ontario 2018Horizons Unlimited is having a big meeting in central Ontario in May and it'd be nice to go.  It's a three hour ride from home but only about an hour and a half from the inlaw's cottage.  I looked into staying over but it's a pretty penny.  Staying at the resort it's at is north of eight hundred bucks for the cheapest condo type place available.  Even assuming I could find some people to divide the cost with, that's more than I'm willing to pay.

Heading up Friday I could do a loop around the Kawartha Highlands on some twisty, Canadian Shield roads before landing at the cottage.  The whole thing would be about 850kms over a long weekend.  A day of riding up there, a day at Horizons and then a ride home on Sunday - entirely doable.

The ride around Kawartha
They structure the pricing to get you there for the whole weekend, so even if I just went for the day it's still seventy five bucks, but then I guess I could always go back Sunday if it really did the business.  I've had friends attend before and really enjoy it.  If there were wild camping opportunities in a less resorty location, I'd be more willing to commit, but refugee camping (in rows, on a site) isn't my cup of tea, and the alternative staying in a building ends up being money I'd rather spend elsewhere.

Still, for seventy five bucks, it might be a good way to get a sense of the overlander adventure club, I just wish they offered a first time taster's package.  They say 'come to an HU event and find your tribe' - but I tend toward a tribe of one.  I want to believe, and I want to go, but I don't want to end up spending a mint on something that ends up not being a fit.  The aspie in me wants me to just go for a long ride in the Haliburton Highlands - I'm trying to use that to convince him to go and meet people... something he really isn't fond of.