Sunday, 27 November 2016

Fury Project: final drive & body panels

With the snow finally falling I've had time to start into the naked Concours project.  The first thing that needed addressing was the final drive unit which was leaking from the inner seal.  When the Clymers manual says you can do it but it's a big pain in the ass, it's best to have a practised hand do the work.  I took the unit off (easily done as it's held on the drive shaft by four bolts) and loosened all the fasteners on the inner plate.  

Two Wheel Motorsport, my local Kawasaki dealership, said they could do the work and estimated two hours of shop time and a twelve dollar seal.  I dropped off the unit and got a call back four days later saying it was done.  It was a nice surprise to find that the work took less than an hour and my $250 estimate was suddenly a $120 bill.  You hear a lot of negative talk about dealerships but Two Wheel did this job professionally and quickly, and then didn't overcharge when they easily could have.

I cleaned out the shaft drive end and re-greased everything.  Reinstalling the unit was easy and straightforward.  With the grease holding the spring in place I was able to simply slot the drive unit onto the shaft splines and re-torque the four nuts.  Everything went together smoothly and the drive feels tight and positive.

Since this was the only mechanical issue with the Concours I was able to begin thinking about the customization side of things.  With over 100lbs of plastic and metal removed from the bike I needed to start thinking about how to minimally dress this naked machine in order to cover up the plumbing and electrics.  Having a metal shop at work means handy access to fabrication tools.  Our shop teacher is also a Concours owner and is eager to help with panel building.  He suggested I do cardboard cutouts of the pieces I need and then we can begin the process of creating metal body work.

Body work craft day in the garage.
Doing the cutouts is tricky even in cardboard.  The left side cover goes over some electronics including the fuse panel and needs to bulge outward in order to contain all of that.  The right side is more straightforward but still needs cutouts for the rear brake wiring and rear suspension adjuster.  I'm curious to see how close the metal cutouts come to the cardboard templates.

The shop at school has a plasma cutter and we should be getting a laser engraver shortly.  With such advanced tools I'm already thinking about engraving panels.  Collecting together a bunch of line drawings of iconic images and sayings in a variety of languages would be an interesting way to dress up the minimal panels on this bike.  If the laser engraver can work on compound shapes I might drop the gas tank in there and engrave Kawasaki down the spine of it where the gold stripe will go rather than looking for badges or decals.

I enjoy the mechanical work but now that the Concours is working to spec I can focus on the arts and crafts side of customization.  Next up is trying to figure out how a minimal front panel that contains the headlight and covers up the electrical and plumbing at the front will look.

Dreamtime Begins

You tend to see a lot more Photoshop post
production during Dreamtime.
The end of riding season means it's the beginning of Dreamtime.  I shift from what I'm doing on a motorcycle to what I wish I were doing but can't.  Things get fictional and funky.  Instead of generating footage and photography I'm looking over what I got from the past season and wondering about what I'd like to do in the next one.  If I lived further south I'd keep stealing rides when I could get them.  If  I lived somewhere where feet of snow don't regularly happen I'd brave the 'winter' (what we'd call fall).

I also find I have time to fettle instead of ride so the Concours ZG1000 Fury project will finally start moving at a steady pace.  My goal is to have both bikes on the road in the spring.

It's difficult not to wish for riding season to return but there is value in this change of season, I just need to change my mind.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

My local Triumph dealer and stealing a late November ride

The end of fall is happening abruptly
I keep thinking I'm at the end of the riding season but opportunities are continually arising.  After a fairly miserable trip to the doctor I found myself free on an unseasonably warm late November day.  My usual M.O. is to head into the country and find twisty roads.  Less people+twisty roads = happiness!  This time I did the opposite.  I was curious where my local Triumph dealer was now that I own one.  It turns out it's 136kms away, so not exactly local.  Getting there involved a blast down the highway, something else I don't frequent.  In fact, I don't think I've been on a major highway since the Lobo Loco Rally in August.  I live in the country and avoid population centres and the highways that connect them.  People are tedious.  People in traffic are doubly so.

The Tiger almost ended up here last March
until I made a desperate plea to the previous
owner on the eve of him trading it in.  It
finally showed up at the dealership it was
almost sold to for a quick visit.
Inglis Cycle is located in the east end of London, Ontario.  I hadn't been around there since attending the air show in the late 1980s; it's much more developed now.  After a blast down the 401 at warp speeds I worked my way through an awful lot of traffic lights before finding the dealership behind an abandoned factory.  With their parking lot cut up and the neighborhood looking like a demilitarized zone I cautiously went inside.

I was met by one of the Inglis brothers and he gave me a quick, low pressure introduction.  Walking into a dealer you sometimes get the sense that they're only interested in you if you've got money to spend that day.  Inglis Cycle was welcoming and relaxed.  I felt like I could wander around and look at the bikes on display without any tension, so I did but I was only really there for one particular brand, the one I can't find at home...

The Street Triple is a pretty thing, but I still think I'd go Z1000 if I were to get a naked bike.

I really like Triumph.  I consider them an example of what Britain is capable of when it doesn't get all bound up in socialist nonsense or historical classism.  Freed from all that cultural weight the new Triumph is a competitive global manufacturer.

After a wander around the Triumphs on display I came back to the Triumph Tiger Explorer which is a nice piece of kit.  As an all purpose machine it'll do everything from swallowing highway miles to light off road work.  I've thrown my leg over enough bikes to be aware of how silly I look on typically sized machines; the big Tiger fits.

The Street Triple is a lovely looking thing but too small.  Were I to do the naked bike thing it'd be on the more substantial Kawasaki Z1000.  The other classically styled Triumphs are also things of beauty but I don't think I'd fit on any of them.

I wrapped up the visit with a trip to the accessories department where they had your typical assortment of dealer-type motorcycle gear and a sad lack of the lovely gear Triumph sells online.  I ended up picking up an Inglis Cycle Triumph t-shirt, but it was a pretty low rent printed t-shirt compared to the bling on Triumph Canada.  It's a shame as I was ready to drop a bit of coin on a nice bit of Triumph wear.

I headed north through heavy lunch-time traffic out of London getting stopped twice by people wanting to know what kind of bike I was riding (it says Triumph Tiger on it).  Score another one for the increasingly unique old Tiger 955i with its Lucifer Orange paint and stripes.

Once clear of the flotsam I was able to burn down some country roads in June-like temperatures, though all the trees were bare.  I'd seen a comely sign for St Mary's when we were riding back from the Lake Huron navigation so that was my lunch destination.

 I'd looked up Little Red's Pub the day before (highest rated place to eat in town) and was aiming there for lunch.  As luck would have it there was a parking spot right out front and a front window table waiting for me.  I had a lovely fish and chip lunch (hand made fries, a good bit of halibut) and a good stretch before getting back on the Tiger for the long ride home.

St Mary's is as pretty as its sign.
Since that day the temperature has plunged (below freezing as a high every day) and it has snowed multiple times.  This time the end really has come.  The batteries are out of the bikes and down in the warm basement on trickle charge.  This time of year with its increasing gloom and lousy weather makes that first ride of the spring feel so very far away.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Riding on ice is hard

It dawned a cool, foggy morning on Thursday.  If it's hard to take a photo of it I get particularly interested in trying to do it, and foggy, early morning weather is particularly difficult to photograph.  

I hustled out of the house to find the moist air particularly cold.  When I got to the end of the street I turned right instead of left, thinking that riding down the dirt back roads to work would yield some exceptional photo ops, it did:

Frost on the grass and the ice forming on my visor suggested that this was more than just fog.  After the photo stop I proceeded up the road very cautiously having to constantly wipe the icy condensation off my visor.  Unfortunately, no one else had decided to take the back way that morning and the fog was slowly condensing onto the road as well.  I approached the stop sign to a paved cross road very cautiously but the moment I applied the brakes both wheels locked up.  

If you've ever locked up both wheels on a motorcycle you know how quickly things can go pear shaped.  The Tiger started to skittle and my heart rate went through the roof.  Reflexively, I got off the front brake immediately and was able to keep the bike upright (barely).  Since the rear brake was the only thing stopping me at all I had to keep my foot in it.  The back wheel was locking up pretty much every time I touched the pedal, but I kept at it.  I hadn't been going that quickly but when your coefficient of drag is zero you aren't shaving off much speed.

By this point the white line is coming up quick.  I'm auto-locking the rear brake but I'm not going to stop in time.  I get back on the front brake and it grips this time and I stop right on the line.  A woman thumping down the road at 20 over the limit (in thick ice fog) suddenly bursts out of the white to my left and leans on the horn as she flies by inches in front of my front wheel.  It's nice to know that my hands are what saved me and not her considerate driving.

Once on well used pavement it was pretty stable.  I got myself the rest of the way into work without any problems other than having to constantly wipe the ice forming off my visor.  Sometimes being a photographer is a dangerous business.  At least I've got quick reflexes and don't panic when things literally go sideways.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Rear hub gaskets & Moto Guzzi's MGX21 Flying Fortress

I was at Two Wheel Motorsport yesterday dropping off the Concours' rear hub to get the inner gasket re-done.  The rear hub comes off easily enough, but the Clymer's manual said that with the special tools required as well as how much a pain in the ass it is to evenly heat up the hub housing to remove the inner plate (you can't use a torch, it'll warp it), this might be one of those times when DIY is more trouble than it's worth.

Looking at the cost I was in for nearly $200 for two tools I'd probably only ever use once, and they're rare enough that you can't rent them.  Between that, the heating bit (they suggest maybe using a hot plate), and the fiddly nature of the internal components which have to be shimmed just right or you end up with a very clunky drivetrain, this seemed like a good time to make use of a professional.  Two Wheel said they could do the job for about $250 taxes in.

The dangerous part about visiting your local dealer is walking through the rows of new machinery.  On my way out they had a flock of Moto Guzzis, which I have to admit I have a soft spot for after reading Melissa Hobrook Pierson's The Perfect Vehicle.

As I wandered down the aisle looking at everything from modern adventure tourers to stripped down cafe styled Guzzis a young salesman appeared.  I'd been reading about the not at all shy and retiring Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress in Motorcycle Mojo and wondered if they had one.  It just happened that they did, down the end of the row.  He pulled it out for us to have a look at...

If you've read anything about my time with motorbikes you'll know that cruisers and their bagger derivatives are about as interesting to me as a plate of spam, but these recent European designed bikes, while heavy, can still actually lean into corners and are surprisingly usable.

There is nothing about the MGX-21 Flying Fortress, so named because it was inspired by the American World War II bomber (an odd choice considering said bombers probably dropped ordinance on and around the Moto Guzzi factory), that is subtle.  The enormous bat-wing fairing, acres of carbon fibre and those big opposing air cooled cylinder heads poking out of it all just in front of your knees make for an over the top look at me statement; this is a machine for extroverts.

As a big guy I find that most machines are tight in the knees and generally look too small for me.  I even look like I fill up the tall Tiger, but Guzzi's Fortress looked and felt like it fit.  The salesman said that like so many heavy but well balanced machines, the moment you start moving the weight seems to disappear.

This big, black Guzzi makes a unique statement.  You can find similarly styled American bikes, but they don't have this red-headed Italian's European flair.  At nearly twenty-four grand (Canadian) you're going to have to be well off or really wanting to make that statement in order to get onto one.  

No one does fashion and beauty like the Italians, and this new Guzzi, while seemingly an odd choice for the venerable Italian builder, exudes charisma and charm.  If I had my own version of Jay Leno's garage this Lombardy beauty would be in there for those rare days when I want to put myself on a pedestal.

It certainly is.
Even if it's not your thing, have a look.  Like an Italian Comtessa, she might be out of your league but a joy to behold.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Mid-November Last Gasps

The Tiger's still purring to the
edge of winter! 
Mid November and I'm still commuting in to work!  It was -2°C while riding past frost covered grass on the way in, but a comfortable 12°C and sunny on the way home.

I should be able to two wheel it in and back for the rest of the week, but come the weekend things take a turn for the worse.  If there's salt down and icy roads this may finally be the end.  Still, riding from the end of March (it would have been sooner but for a carb-dead Concours) until Mid-November is no bad thing.

In a perfect world I'll be back in the saddle in March some time, and might even steal a ride or two in between,weather permitting.  That's four months of waiting... unless I can convince my lovely wife to let me get... THE VAN (it's still for sale).  If that happened there's no telling where we might get to over the cold months.

That don't look good, but it was inevitable.

In the meantime, there was a super moon!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Southern Ontario's Motorcycle Watering Hole

A warm weekend had us out on two wheels yet again.  By this point in November it could as easily be a blizzard as it could a luke warm autumn day.  For no other reason than it'd be nice to have some fresh bakery bread, my son Max and I rode over to Erin.

The Forks of the Credit were as busy as ever with dozens of motorcyclists making use of what may very well be the last weekend of riding before winter finally shuts us all down.

Whenever you see that many people together with their bikes you can't help but recognize all the vastly different cultures that exist within the riding community.  The Harley crowd was there in droves, dabbing around the parking lot on their heavy bikes.  At one point a group (dare I say gang?) left at once, their potatoing the only thing louder than GnR's Paradise City rattling out of tiny bike speakers.

As conversation resumed after the cacophony left the old fella in a well used Roadcrafter sitting behind us said, 'that's all a bit much.'  It's a funny thing, but I have more respect for that beaten up, well used hundred thousand kilometre Aerostich suit wearing V-Strom rider and the words coming out of him than I do for all the noise and attitude.  One is about motorcycling, the other is about something else.

While having a coffee a couple of dozen bikes pulled in or rode past but we were the only Triumph, which might have been why people kept stopping to look the Tiger over.  At one point three Lamborghinis, two Ferraris, an Aston Martin and a Nissan Skyline drove up from the Forks; some kind of rich guy country drive?

We saddled up and went up and down the twisty bits, getting stuck behind a massive pickup truck with motor company stickers all over it on the way back.  I put away my frustration and just enjoyed the last of the Fall colours.  It was all very big and loud but I entertained myself by slowing to a near stop (no one was behind us) and then speeding up on the bends.  I guess being big and loud myself I don't need to compensate vehicularly.

A whole new batch of people had pulled in to Higher Ground's parking lot in Belfountain when we passed back by.  You can do a lot worse than just heading over to the Forks of the Credit on one of the last warm late Fall days.  You'll see everything from Ducati Monsters and race reps to some outlandish chops from the '90s; it's never boring.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Turning Tedium Into Adventure

It was actually warmer this month than it was last as I headed over to Erin for a monthly meeting.  I thought I'd had my last ride then, but instead I'm still at it as November begins.
The commute in to work starts
before sunrise these days, it's
often below zero.

Since we haven't had daylight savings time yet it was already past sunset at 6:30 as I headed out.  Coming back late it was a starry sky that kept me company.  While riding through an inky black countryside full of skeletal trees, a bright flash suddenly lit everything up as a fireball burned across the Milky Way.  Never would have seen that in a car. Riding a bike is awesome.

I was asked why I'd keep riding as winter approaches.  The answer is simple.  Driving a car over to Erin and back is ninety minutes of tedious commuting.  Riding the bike over and back turns it into an adventure.  Just because something is easier doesn't mean it's better.  I'm going to miss the adventure when the snow flies.

Trying out some unusual angles with the 360Fly.

It has snowed the week before on River Road.
There are large patches of sand all along the road.
Not to mention the wet leaves... exciting!