Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bike Hole 2.0

With some shed-age, I've been able to move the gardening stuff out of the bike hole.  With a bit of re-arrangement I've got plenty of space for the Connie and the Ninja.  Being able to park bikes wall to wall means I have more space for more bikes!

Voracious Reader: Canadian Motorcycle Magazines

With riding coming to an end in the Great White North I'm looking more closely at motorcycle media to sustain me through the long, dark cold.  Some magazines have already made the cut and are a sure thing when it comes to subscribing.  

The first one I found was Cycle Canada: a local, opinionated and well written magazine that has no interest in editorial-beige.  They tend toward the no-holds barred British writing approach.  I subscribe to both BIKE and Performance Bike for that approach (though PB has enough grammar problems that I sometimes find it difficult to take seriously).

Cycle Canada is a joy to read, it's just hard to get a hold of.  I tried to renew my subscription in the summer and the publishing company couldn't get their website to work, which happens.  I tried again weeks later and it still wasn't working.  Being told to phone it in doesn't cut it in 2014 (I don't like giving credit card info over the phone).  You have to wonder what's going to happen to a media company that can't make basic internet functionality work in the 21st Century.

I ended up going through Roger's Magazine subscription service in July in an attempt to get my mits on CC, it's the end of October and I haven't seen a magazine yet.  Cycle Canada?  Great magazine, but pretty hard to get your hands on.

The other Canadian magazine I've got a lock on is Motorcyle Mojo.  I think of it as the Canadian version of Rider Magazine (the only US magazine I'm subscribed to).  Excellent layouts and photography (which feel like an afterthought in CC), original travel pieces and knowledgeable editorials.  The writing isn't as edgy as CC, but Motorcycle Mojo knows what it's talking about and presents it well.  They also know how to run a website and communicate really well with their subscribers.

Two on the cusp are Inside Motorcycles and Canadian Biker Magazine.  I got both as a present, but I'm not sure if I'll keep them going.  IM did an article this month on the Polaris Slingshot.  Apart from sounding like an advertisement, it also kept calling the three wheeler "unique".  One of the first cars I ever rode in in England in the early 1970s was my grandmother's three wheeler.  I suspect Morgan would dispute the gee-wiz uniqueness of the Slingshot as well.  You can't be expected to know everything, but if you're going to write on a vehicle, doing a little research would prevent you from calling the rehash of an idea that's been around since the birth of motor vehicles, "a whole new class of vehicle."  Lazy writing like that is what'll stop me renewing that subscription.

At the same time Canadian Biker Magazine had an editorial by Robert Smith that not only demonstrated a deep and nuanced understanding of the history of three wheelers, but also accurately and incisively deconstructed why this type of vehicle can never let you experience flying in two dimensions like a motorcycle does.  This kind of knowledgeable and opinionated writing is what would keep me re-upping that subscription.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Concours Oil Cooler Leak

Now that I've had a chance to run the Concours a bit and got some fresh oil in it I've discovered the first mechanical problem.  Oil is running from the oil cooler at the front of the motor.  It looks localized around the oil lines coming out of the oil cooler.  I'm hoping it's the gaskets highlighted (GASKET 14X19.5X1.4 11009-1461).  They're only a couple of bucks each and they might even be a standard size that I don't have to go all the way down to the dealer for.

With the fairings off I had a look around the rest of the engine now that it's been run a bit and everything else looks tight and dry.  With luck some cheap gaskets and re-torqued oil lines will mean a mechanically able Concours that's ready for the road.

You can see the wet oil line connectors at the bottom - fortunately that seems to be the leak.
There is no trace of oil higher up.
Connie with her skirts off again...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Dirt or Adventure?

I was out in the woods this past Canadian Thanksgiving and couldn't help but look at the mad logging roads we'd travelled down and wonder what they'd be like on two wheels.  I'm also considering a starter off-road bike for my son, so having something I could ride along with him would be awesome.

I've actually ridden into the cottage on the Ninja.  It was surprisingly surefooted on the winding gravel lanes, but with a capable dual purpose bike I could head off the roads and onto the trails and not be terrified about dropping it.

I'd initially focused on the KLR650 as a dual sport, off road capable two wheeler, but if off-roading is going to be a major part of what this bike is purchased for then weight is a key factor.  The Suzuki DRZ-400S is over 100lbs lighter while offering a better power to weight ratio.  It's a smaller machine and $500 more expensive, though I don't find smaller necessarily worse since I'm an Austin Vince fan.  With no fairing whatsoever it'll be all wind while riding whereas the larger KLR would cover road speeds better, though no fairings means less broken plastic when it's dropped.  Both machines have off-road sized tall seats and feel well sized for me.  After seeing a DRZ last summer I was surprised at how much presence it had, it's a mighty fine looking machine.

Both are single cylinder, simple machines, but you get the sense that the Suzuki has been updated more often whereas the KLR proudly wears its 20 year old tech on its sleeve.  The DRZ also dresses as a supermoto street bike and has a plethora of go-faster kit.  KLR extras seem to revolve around repairing basic engineering issues with this old design.

I guess a choice between the two would come down to what the bike would be used for.  If covering distances in more of an adventure bike way is the goal, the KLR is a first step into that world.  If I'm looking for an off-road machine that'll carry you to those places, then the DRZ seems a better choice.

Two very different approaches to riding off the pavement.

Old Motorbike Electrics

Turns out the Concours didn't need a new bulb, it just needed some more electrical connection cleaning.  After replacing the bulb that wasn't blown I finally took off the fairing only to discover that, like all the other electrical gremlins, it was a matter of dirty connectors.

After cleaning up the wiring harness, suddenly all the lights work again.  I posted what happened on the COG discussions and got this pearl:

As usually happens in a case like this, you immediately see the good advice repeated. Only a couple of nights later I was reading Performance Bike Magazine. They do a bit each month on what to look for in finding an older model sport bike, in this case the thirteen year old Honda VTR1000 SP2. In the article they suggest that cleaning and protecting all electrical contacts on a bike that old is a good winter-time activity.  If it's true for well cared for sports bikes half as old, it's even truer for my field-found Connie.

As WillyP states above, bikes aren't built to keep out the elements, even the most covered bike is virtually naked compared to a car. Even in the case of a well cared for, covered sports bike, cleaning the electrical contacts is a worthwhile off-season ritual. In the case of a field-found Concours, it's where I should have started in the first place.  A breakdown and electrical cleaning is my go-to next time around.

As a project bike the Concours continues to teach lessons even as it becomes more and more roadworthy.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Dream Stable (this week)

This changes on a moment to moment basis, but in this moment, here is what I wish was looking back at me when I opened the door to the iron horse stable:

1) An outfit fit for my son and I:  A Royal Enfield Bullet Classic with a Rocket Sidecar.

500cc Bullet Classic: $6350
Sportmax Rocket sidecar: $3500+~$1200 installation

The whole outfit would cost about ~$11,000 new... I found a used outfit for $8000, might find another for less.

2) A scooter for my wife: Vespa 946

It's a dream list so I'll go for the fantastically expensive Vespa, though Honda makes some mighty nice alternatives for one third the price.

The Vespa?  $9999 for a year old new one (!?!)

(the similarly spec-ed Honda PCX150 comes in at $3899).  I've found clean, used scooters for about $1000.

3) State of the art Hyper-bike:  

This has always been a Hayabusa, though I'd chuck it all in for the new Ninja H2R.

Hayabusa:  $14999

Ninja H2R:  ???

4) A Light Weight, Swiss-Army Knife dual purpose bike:

The Suzuki DR-Z400S: $7299

Over 100lbs lighter than a KLR, a super capable, light weight enduro machine that can manage weight, still has good power, but follows the Austin Vince minimalist ethos: nimble, efficient, ultra-capable off road.  Found a used one in good nick for about $4000.

5) A matching off-road bike for my son:

Not sure of the spec on this one.  It would have to be the one he feels most comfortable on because he's a cautious fellow.

~$2-3000 new - there seem to be a lot of used ones about for ~$1000

I'd be looking at about $50,000 in new (dream) gear.  On a budget I think I could pick up (used) the two dirt bikes for $5000, a hyperbike for $7000, a scooter for $1500 and an outfit for $3-5000.  So $16-18500 for a more realistic dream stable...

Inclusivity is what I'm aiming for with this collection.  We three could go for a putter on scooter and outfit.  My son and I could go off roading together.  Only the Hayabusa really smacks of selfishness.

Of course this will all change again next week, so I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Dodging a Bullet: Assumptions of Safety & Extreme Defensive Riding

We had a tough week at work.  A colleague, the kind of guy who you assume will outlast you because he does everything right, was killed last weekend in a motor vehicle 'accident'.  I put accident in quotes because it's not really an accident when the other driver blows through a stop sign while speeding and kills you and your wife (and himself).

You'd be right to say I'm a bit angry about this, but I'm also rather desperately looking for a reason for it.  That things can happen for no reason bothers me, but they do.  They did nothing wrong.  They were driving home after dropping their son off at university.  They were driving in an SUV with a five star safety rating.  I want there to be a reason (the guy who hit them was drunk, distracted, somehow incompetent), but I fear there is none; there is no reason why they are dead other than the most basic one: motor vehicles are inherently dangerous and a number of people who operate them aren't able to do so well enough to ensure your safety.

If we are going to let pretty much anyone strap themselves into a metal box powered by exploding gases and shoot themselves down roads at high speed, we have to accept that there is an inherent risk, no matter how capable they may be, of death.  Whenever you get into any kind of motor vehicle you accept this risk, or you don't get into the vehicle.  

It's generally understood that getting on a motorbike makes this calculus so obvious that people can't help but tell you (over and over) how dangerous it is.  Those same people will go out and buy five star rated SUVs thinking they've beaten the odds.  Those big vehicles mean you'll always come out of a minor incident, and if you find yourself in a lot of minor incidents then I suppose they make sense.  Better to spend the money on a bigger vehicle rather than making efforts to reduce your inability.  Driver training courses are significantly cheaper than operating a large vehicle, but pride prevents most people from considering them.  We end up in an arms race with the most distracted, incapable drivers operating larger and larger vehicles for their own safety.

I've been trying to suss out government safety statistics.  I have a feeling that people who have taken motorcycle safety training have fewer accidents than the general public.  The kind of defensive driving presented to new motorcycle riders is foreign to most drivers in cages who don't respect the dangerous position they are placing themselves in.  I suspect that there would be way fewer accidents if everyone had to ride a motorbike for the first year of their license.  Exposure gives you a healthy respect for the dangerous mechanics of operating a motor vehicle at high speed.

Were I in my mini-van with my wife and son, I would have probably driven into this disaster just as that colleague of mine did.  Were I on my motorbike, I'd approach that intersection with the same everyone-is-trying-to-kill-me attitude that I've adopted since my initial motorbike training course.  On a bike I'd have sworn at the idiot who ran the stop sign after braking hard to avoid him.  In an insulated motor vehicle, remote from the world around me, I'd have assumed I was safely following the laws of the road until it didn't matter any more.

Followup:  just to make things weirder, this past week I died in a car accident (same name, similar age, lived about 100kms west of me) and a guy who started teaching at the same time I did and is a year younger than me also passed.  Maybe this is just what getting older feels like, you see others around you dropping out of life and can't help but wonder why you're still here.