Sunday, 29 January 2017

Dakar Dreams

I just finished this year's Dakar and it always starts the itch.  As a bucket list item it's well beyond my ken, but I still sometimes think about it.  The cost is in 1%er territory and a school teacher from Ontario isn't likely to find support from advertisers that would allow him to compete.  But hey, what's mid-life for if not your last chance to do the impossible?  The other day a buddy said, "you don't want to be sitting around when you're old wondering what you might have done."  Even an attempt at a Dakar would be special.  Finishing one would be a crown jewel in a life well lived.

In an interview during Charlie Boorman's Race to Dakar, one of the competitors says he does it because it's two weeks of singularly focusing on one thing, which he found relaxing.  Simon Pavey, Charlie's teammate, said he does it just so he doesn't have to do dishes for two weeks.  I get the angle.  Being able to singularly focus on something is a luxury few of us can afford.  Life is a series of compromises and multiple demands on our time.

I've been watching The Dakar long enough to not harbor any illusions about winning it or even placing well, but I would certainly hope to finish.  Having a Dakar finishers medal puts you in a very small circle of excellence, and toughness.  The people who know what it is would have mad respect when they saw it.

To get there you need to take on the almost religious piety of a professional athlete.  I'd give myself two years to get the experience and fitness levels I'd need to give it an honest try.  I know I wouldn't stop unless circumstances stopped me (I'm perverse like that), so it would simply be a matter of preparing as well as I could for it.  I turn 48 this spring, so I'd be doing a Dakar in 2019, the year I turn 50.  My goal would be to complete a Dakar and document as much of it as I could in the process.  From the beginning to the end I'd be making notes that would eventually turn into a book:  Mad Dogs & Englishmen: A Middle Aged Man's Dakar.


A Zero electrically driven Dakar Rally bike?  Yes please!
Maybe by then there would be an electric motorcycle that could manage the stages with quick battery swaps at the stops.  Maybe I should be asking Zero if they'd like to consider a Dakar run.  Being the first electric bike to finish a Dakar would be something.  Electric cars are getting there now.

Finding sponsorship with companies I already have a relationship with would be a nice way to make this attempt a more personal one.  Everybody runs KTMs, Hondas and Yamahas, but I'd love to ride a rally prepped Kawasaki, Triumph or maybe a CCM; all companies who have had an impact on my motorcycling career.  Getting some degree of factory and dealer support in that would be fantastic.

A lot of riders gopro their experiences from within the Dakar itself, but I think it would be cool to get some next level media out of the event.  Running a 360 degree camera would be a goal.  Having a small, agile, media production crew along who could capture drone footage and support the 360 footage from inside the race could eventually lead to an immersive video of the event that gives some idea of how it feels to be in the Dakar; an everyman's view of the race.  Dreamracer does a good job of this.  I'd try to emulate that approach with newer technology.  Since not a lot of Canadians participate in the rally, I might be able to drum up local support that other rally riders could not.

Deep winter, mid-life dreams about doing something impossible... all I'd need is an opportunity.

LINKS


Where to find your rally kit:  Rebel X SportsNeduro


Sample Dakar budget, another sample budget

A 2017 Dakar how-to video series by Manuel Lucchese

What Dakar riders wear article


Dakar advice on putting together an entry:

Before setting off in an active search for sponsors, it is important to define your project clearly by

answering the following questions:

Why am I taking part in the Dakar?
What are my motivations?
What are my objectives?
What are my assets in achieving those objectives?
What sort of crew do I want to set up?
What resources do I need to achieve this?
It is important to detail the various cost items in order to have a clear idea of your expenses (Vehicle preparation – Registration – Trip – Visas and passports – assistance vehicle(s) – mechanics registrations…) After this stage, you must have answers to the following four questions:

What is my budget?
How should I present it to my potential partners/sponsors?
What are my available funds?
How much should I ask for from my potential sponsors?
Your potential sponsors must be targeted : better to count on your relational, personal, professional or regional fabric rather than “major sponsors” who may be less inclined to support you. Make a list of your potential partners and characterise them:

What do they do?
Why would they be likely to help me?
What specific arguments should I put forward?
What funds do they have available?
Which companies should I see as a priority?
“Do not make mistakes in what you say or who you target”. There is no point in talking about your potential sporting achievements if you are taking part in your first Dakar! Your aim is to finish, not to be placed! So, assess what you say and in particular your media exposure: amateurs will be the subject of one-off reports, they are frequently mentioned in the local and regional media but do not promise the TV news or a daily sports newspaper!

Prepare a personalised dossier to present your project. This presentation must be clear, concise, persuasive and imaginative; it must make them dream of the rally but also convince them of your personal qualities.

You need to highlight your special features, your motivation :

What is original about your entry?
Why are you passionate about motor sports (and cross country rallies in particular)?
What previous experience do you have?
Consider presenting your sporting profile: draw inspiration from statistics on Dakar 2015. Put yourself into the rally: in terms of age, type of vehicle, number of entries, status (professional or amateur). Stress your nationality and your region! Identify potential media spin-off: media statistics can help you identify press, radio or even TV spin-off in your region.

Regional media are frequently looking for a potted history of amateur competitors; so do not hesitate to contact them and suggest an interview, your potential sponsors will only be more impressed!

Present your arguments to justify sponsorship:

To give out a good image of the company at local, regional or national level thanks to media spin-off. The company’s name (and/or one of its brands) is associated with your entry and the adventure of the rally.
To change or strengthen the company’s image internally. To advertise the company’s main values, the directors can use event sponsorship to motivate employees and/or associate the company with values such as courage, surpassing oneself, competition, human adventure,… which characterise the Dakar.
To build a relationship with their suppliers/customers. Sponsorship may be a way for one of your suppliers/customers to build strong links before or after the conclusion of a partnership.
To involve your sponsors indirectly in the adventure. The Dakar is a mythical trial in which everyone who is interested in motor or extreme sports will want to take part one day… These fans, potential sponsors, will be all the more inclined to help you in this challenge if they can live the adventure by proxy.
To enable the partner company to enjoy tax relief. Depending on the country, sponsorship offers tax breaks. Consider putting forward a small sales pitch to demonstrate these tax breaks according to the legislation in your country.

Highlight the benefits of financial support or support in kind :

Visibility of their brand/company name on your vehicle, your clothing, your helmet, your Leatt-Brace, your trunk, your assistance vehicles…
A free trip on a rest day or on arrival: for the most generous sponsors, a day at the rally is a weighty argument for those who want to taste the atmosphere of the Dakar!
Event organisation: exhibiting the vehicle before or after the rally, or a photo exhibition…
Finally, do not forget to…
Keep them up to date with your exploits during/after the rally (sell IRITRACK!)
Give them a DVD collection of Dakar articles, or a detailed press review, or a photo album to thank them.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Changing Motorcycle Fork Oil

A three legged Tiger.
Changing fork oil turned out to be pretty straightforward.  The most time consuming part is removing any niggly body panels so you can get at the forks themselves.   Make sure you loosen the top fork plug before you remove the forks as you need the forks firmly held while you do that and the clamps on the bike are designed to do just that.  Once you're there, undoing the clamps that hold the forks means they'll slide right out, so be ready for that.

The spring on the Tiger is a
progressive rate unit - it is
sprung tighter the lower it
goes.
Once on the work bench it was a matter of taking off the rubber fork protectors and cleaning up the unit.  I then slowly removed the top of the fork using a 22mm ratchet while keeping pressure on.  The book said the cap is under 'considerable' pressure from the spring, but with the fork fully extended it released quite gently.  With the cap off I removed a spacer, a washer and the spring slowly as the fork is full of oil.  Pulling the spring out quickly means you're pulling oil out and making a mess.  With the parts out I inverted the shock assembly and poured the old oil out into a measured container to see how much was in there and what condition is was in.

The oil came out looking pretty dark - the new stuff was completely transparent.  Since the previous owner didn't appear to change the oil in the engine, I doubt fork oil ever got looked at; this stuff has probably been in there a while.  There was no corrosion in or on the forks themselves or on the internal components, so after a cleanup I poured 710ml of new fork oil into the fully compressed fork.  I had to raise the fork to install the spring, washer and spacer and then put the cap back on snug.  I later tightened it to torque specs when it was reinstalled on the bike.

Spring number two gave me about 660ml of oil after a good emptying.  The first one was at about 650ml.  It got refilled to 710mm of heavier 15 weight fork oil to reduce the floatiness of the front fork and deal with my weight better.  I'm looking forward to feeling the difference when the snows clear.
If you've got a bike with fairings I'd guess a fork oil change would take you an easy afternoon of work.  If you've got a naked bike then this is a matter of removing the front wheel and brake calipers, loosening the top cap, loosening two clamp bolts on the triple tree and handlebar clamps and sliding the fork out.  Removing the cap and internal components and emptying the old oil would only take about ten minutes per fork.  Refilling a compressed, empty fork with the required amount of fork oil and putting it all back together another ten minutes.  Once you were familiar with the process on your naked bike it wouldn't take more than an hour to do a fork oil change - longer if you have a lot of finicky fairings to remove.

The left photo is of the fork assembly off the bike prior to removing the rubber fork gaiter (which cleaned up nicely with warm soap water and then some Armourall).  On the right:  all back together again.  The front wheel got regreased and cleaned up.  The speedo housing was especially mucky.

LINK to the specs research I did on fork oil changes on this particular Triumph Tiger.


The other fork had about 650ml in it - pretty black considering it was clear when it went in.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Replacing Plastic Fuel Fittings: that was a pain in the ass

Well, that was a pain in the ass.  It began well enough.  Removing the metal clips from the plastic fittings was pretty straightforward.  Push the pin in and then gently tease them apart and you don't have springs flying everywhere.  I'm a bit confused as to why I needed to save the bits as the new fittings come with clips, but I'll hang on to them anyway.

Following the directions online, I next took out the lower plastic fuel fitting in about thirty seconds.  The upper one (that leaks) immediately broke (I suspect it already was) and proceeded to spectacularly fall apart.  I spent the next two hours with a hot pick pulling bits of brittle plastic out of the metal fuel tank threads.  It turned into tedious dental surgery rather than a quick repair.

With the plate now clear of detritus, I should be able to install the new metal fittings and resolve my leaking fuel tank once and for all.  Since I have to remove the tank to pretty much do any engine maintenance at all, this fix will make the Tiger maintainable again.

With the fuel tank fittings sorted I'll next be doing the fork oil (never done that before), change the plugs and do a coolant flush (which requires multiple fuel tank removals).  The Tiger will be fit should spring ever arrive.

Online Notes on Fuel Fitting thread sealant:
What to use for fuel fitting thread sealant:
https://www.jamestowndistributors.com/userportal/document.do?docId=563
Don't use teflon tape for fuel fittings!
http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/teflon-tape-vs-gasoline-question.264585/
These guys make it:
https://www.permatex.com/products/thread-compounds/thread-sealants/permatex-high-performance-thread-sealant/
It's available locally:
http://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/permatex-high-temperature-thread-sealant-6-ml-0383777p.html#srp

The metal plate the fuel pump is connected to on the gas tank has a couple of plastic fuel fittings screwed into it.  The top one is leaking and was a pain in the ass to get out, the bottom one came right out easily.
The plastic male ends go into plastic female ends in a metal fuel pump plate.  Shortly it'll all be stainless steel.
Getting it that clean took some patience.
The big, orange Triumph Tiger in maintenance mode - the battery pack is on the back to raise the front wheel off the ground for the coming fork oil change.
Finished it up the next day.  Got the thread sealer from Canadian Tire and they went back together nicely:

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A Dakar Rally With Teeth

I've been watching the Dakar Rally with great interest once again.  It's always a wicked competition that has more in common with the Isle of Man TT than it does any other sporting event.  From a Hemingway perspective The Dakar is the real deal.

I enjoy the Dakar more for the battle than I do the singularly focused professional factory teams.  This year's high profile dropouts have cast light on just how speed focused the rally has become.  With rally drivers and MX racers charging across a carefully chosen course with fairly straightforward navigation and off-road dangers minimized, recent Dakars have felt more like day by day sprints for that faster set than a cross country adventure.  Ever rising speeds and increased completion rates seem to support this.  Thanks to a Marc Coma designed course, this year's rally seems to have come back to Dakar's core philosophies.

The completion of a Dakar is a mighty achievement in and of itself.  Winning a Dakar is a team achievement that depends on a lot of complex pieces coming together perfectly for weeks at a time, but I've felt like the vehicle operators were increasingly specializing in speed over everything else.  Just throw yourself at the horizon and let the mechanics sort it out.
  
You don't want to be pushing so hard
that you're breaking the vehicle and/or
yourself and depending on luck to not
have that happen.  That kind of racer-
think might work on a closed course,
but the Dakar is something else.  You

need some pride to keep you going
when you'd otherwise surrender.  The
meek don't inherit The Dakar.
In recent years, with rally drivers infiltrating the ranks, it feels like the race has moved toward a higher speed, less nuanced approach - hammer it and throw money at the damage and then complain about anything on the course that slows you down seemed to be the way it was going.  The course Coma has set up this year has the speed bunnies getting lost and damaging their machines because they are all go and no slow down and consider.  The return to a more thoughtful Dakar that rewards navigation and terrain reading (because the terrain isn't pre-screened to favour speed bunnies) makes for a better race.  Finding way points and completing timed sections should demand intelligence and terrain reading as well as a racer's touch.  During a Dakar you should sometimes have to slow down to win.

These complexities had me trying to think through how you approach a Dakar.  The speed bunny approach tends to lean heavily on pride, hand-eye coordination and balls-out courage.  If the race organizers did anything other than design speed sections that catter to your approach you complain about it.  Luck was taken care of by influencing speed focused course designs that take you on prepared trails and less intensive navigational challenges.  This year's Dakar is stressing humility and a considered approach to crossing some truly wild stages.  You still need the hand-eye coordination, strength and endurance, but you also need to bring along your strategic thinking.  Mashing the throttle and flying over the terrain doesn't work when the terrain isn't pre-screened for you.  It pays to be more than a racer in the Dakar.

One of my favorite parts of the 2015 Dakar was the blast across the salt flats.  Many of the speed bunnies complained bitterly about it because it was hard on the machinery, but this race isn't just about pinning a throttle.  The journey is the destination on the Dakar.  Too many were only focused on getting to that destination and making the rest incidental.  If they want to race short, closed course rallies, go do that, the Dakar is and should be something else, something bigger.

The Dakar Rally continues to evolve into something better and better.  I hope it keeps embracing its uniqueness by focusing on the adventure rather than catering to the wishes of a small subsection of hard core racers who can see nothing other than how quickly they can complete a rally stage.  Make it hard.  Cross the wilds.  Make the winners think about something other than pinning the throttle in order to win it.

The Dakar is happening right now (January 2nd to January 14th, 2017).  You can watch it on the Dakar website, and Red Bull TV is also doing daily updates.  It's also playing on varied TV channels across the world (but not so much in North America).  Daily Motion is another excellent online place to follow the event.

Why else follow the Dakar?  It's one of the few motor sporting events that goes out of its way to consider its environmental impact.  If you like a considered, intelligent adventure, you should be watching this.






√Čtape 6 - Dakar Heroes - Dakar 2017 by Dakar - Riders like Lyndon Poskitt are why I love The Dakar

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Replacing Triumph Tiger fuel tank couplings

According to Haynes, the Tiger's gas
lines will automatically close when you
unplug them, except when they don't
and make a mess.
I've owned the Triumph Tiger for a season now and intend to do some maintenance on it while the snow if flying.  Pretty much everything you need to get to is under the gas tank, which is a pain in the ass to remove.  More so in my case because the lower fuel line doesn't self seal like it's supposed to.

Last summer I had the tank off for the first time and it poured gas everywhere.  I ended up sticking a pencil in it to slow down the flow.  A gas leak isn't a big deal on a warm summer day, but it's -20°C outside at the moment and heating the garage with a gas leak is problematic (I use a propane heater).

By the time I found that I couldn't get the valve to seal there was a lot of gas about.  I ended up washing the bike and floor clean with the water hose, but doing that in a cold snap is pretty miserable.  It's turned the driveway into a skating rink.

With the gas line back on I decided to have a look online and see what people say about early two thousand Triumph gas lines.  It turns out they don't say nice things about them.  Rather than using more durable metal fittings for the gas line releases, Triumph saved some money and put on problematic plastic ones.  They evidently did a recall but they only ever replaced the leaking ones so some bikes have half metal half plastic.  In my case they're all original plastic ones.  I eventually came across this video which led me to a site with a detailed fix.

If you join tigertriple.com (free) you get a detailed how-to on fixing the under-engineered fuel fittings on a Triumph thanks to Evilbetty.
I bounced over to quickcouplings.net and ordered the needed bits:



They've got a good reputation so I should have the parts next week.  Some people had issues with the smaller sized end so I got a couple of the larger ones.  It was $18 extra but it means I'll be able to do this once and be done.  I've probably already lost ten bucks in gas on this.  
Next up will be draining the gas tank which I topped up for winter storage.  With the tank empty I'll be ready to go with the fitting change.  I'll post on that when it happens.

Front wheel up and ready for
some fork attention - eventually
I was removing the tank to start the fork oil change.  That's been a pain in the neck as well.  I went down to Two Wheel on January 2nd only to discover that they were closed.  I figured I was already half way to Guelph so went over to Royal Distributing to get the fork oil.  With two bottles of the stuff in hand (not on sale) I headed over to the register to discover a forty minute line up to get out the door.  It's this kind of thing that prompts me to buy things online.  I ended up walking out the door without the oil.

At my local Canadian Tire I had a nice chat with a former student now taking welding in college and he rainchecked me some quality synthetic fork oil that was on sale for much less than Royal Distributing was charging anyway.  No line up, no shipping costs and the oil will be here in two days.  Because of the gas tank fittings it all ended up being not time sensitive anyway, so a two day wait and some money saved is all good.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  The drained tank first and then install the upgraded fittings, then on to fork oil and a coolant flush (that also requires gas tank removal).  Considering the majority of maintenance on the Tiger (even changing the air filter) requires gas tank removal, using dodgy plastic fittings (replaced in later models) wasn't a great idea.  Failing to get them all replaced in a recall was another dropped ball.  I knew that running a thirteen year old European bike as my daily rider would be a challenge.  If I can get these oversights sorted, hopefully I can get another good season out of it.

Washed clean and with a minus twenty windchill blowing in under the garage door.  Not the best time of year to mess around with a gas leak, but I've found a fix.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Mood I'm in When I Return from a Ride


BIKE magazine had a travel piece where the writer paraphrased a French pilot talking about how flying takes him away from the minutia of life.  I've flown planes but I find riding a motorcycle much more what I thought flying would be like.  The check listed and tedious process of operating an aircraft along with the strictly regulated flight paths don't lend themselves to a sense of freedom.  You're much more likely to slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of god on a Hayabusa than you ever are in a Cessna.

I was reflecting on my mood when I returned from a ride with my son Max on the weekend.  It wasn't a big trip but I came home relaxed, as I always do from a ride.  Riding a bike involves you.  You can get lost in the complexity of operating it.  Even once you get familiar with the controls the subtlety of working them all together harmoniously becomes a never ending aspiration.  You can always ride better.


I started writing this in October when we went for our ride, but it's the beginning of the new year now and it's been weeks since I've ridden.  At this point I'm reduced to driving a damned car which offers nothing like the sensory thrill you get from riding a bike.  While everyone else wrings their hands about how dangerous being out in the wind is, I'm addicted to it.  Riding a bike makes even the most tedious commute and adventure.


Coming back from that ride all those weeks ago, I was blown clean by the wind.  I'd been in the world in a way that seems foreign to me now, encapsulated in winter.  About the only redeeming feature of having a long off season is the growing anticipation of getting back out there again.


I sometimes wonder how my son Max feels about riding.  I'm always worried that with his autism he finds the sensory overload overwhelming, but he loves going for rides.  Even on very long trips he's a trooper who is always ready to hop back on the bike.  He isn't generally interested in being cool, but I don't think the cool factor is lost on him.  I don't get many images of him on the bike behind me, but I love seeing him doing his wings in these images.

It's been snowing for days.  We're buried in the stuff.  The thought of jumping on the bike and going for a ride is still months away.  Sigh.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Tiger Winter Maintenance Notes


These are winter maintenance notes for me, but others might find them handy...

Rims:   Front: 36 spoke alloy rim 19 x 2.5"  Rear: 40 spoke alloy rim 17 x 4.25"
2005 Tiger:  14 spoke cast alloy: same size (is this findable?  Yes it is!  Not rears though)

Tires: Front: 110/80-19 Rear: 150/70-17

Coolant flush.  2.8l of coolant (50% distilled water 50% corrosion inhibited ethylene glycol)
- cool engine
- remove fuel tank
- remove pressure cap- 
- unscrew bleed hole bolt (thermostat housing)
- remove reservoir cap
- container under engine
- unscrew drain plug (left side of engine) & drain (keep the old washer for flushing)
- remove lower coolant hose and drain
- flush with tap water
- reinstall old washer & plug & lower coolant hose and fill with water & aluminum friendly rad flush
- reinstall drain plug (25Nm) rad cap and bleed hole bolt (7Nm)
- put fuel tank back on
- run engine to warm (10 mins) then let cool
- re-drain
- refill with plain water, repeat running, cool and redrain
- use a new drain plug washer and torque to 25Nm
- with everything but the bleed bolt installed slowly fill with coolant
- fill reservoir to MAX and cap everything and install bleed bolt (7Nm)
- run 3-4 mins, rev to 4-6k a few times to open it up, check rad and reservoir levels

Spark Plugs:  NGK DPR8EA-9   0.8 to 0.9 gap  20Nm  (under gas tank, like everything else)

Fork oil change:  Kayaba G10 or equivalent 107 mm from top of tube with fork spring removed and leg fully compressed.  Larger riders (like me!) might want 15 weight oil.
Tiger oil change intervals.  Tiger fork oil.
Fork oil viscosity  -  More Tiger fork oil info.
Capacity: 720cc/ml  oil level: 107mm (from top of tube with spring removed and compressed leg)
Removal of forks (with body work & front wheel removed)
- one at a time and with all gubbins removed from fork
- loosen fork clamp bolts
- loosen top fork bolt while it's still on the bike (hard to do when it's off)
- note alignment of fork before removing it
- loosen lower clamp bolts, it should slide loose out the bottom
top fork bolt:  30Nm
clamp bolts top yoke:  20Nm
Handlebar holder clamp bolts:  26Nm

Brake fluid flush   DOT 4

Chassis lubricant (swing arm, stearing head, levers & pedals): Mobile Grease HP 222 or lithium based multi purpose grease.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Scotland and Shetland On Two Wheels

Another piece of fantasy trip planning so I'm ready to go when I become pointlessly rich...  this time Scotland and into the North Sea!

https://goo.gl/maps/Jnmk75iLkJQ2
Two days on the mainland working our way north to the ferry port in Thurso...




TWO WEEKS:  SCOTLAND AND INTO THE NORTH SEA

Day 1:  Ediburgh to Inverbroom Lodge
Day 2: Inverbroom Lodge to Thurso
Day 3: Ferry to Orknies
Day 4: Orkneys day 2
Day 5: Ferry to Shetlands
Day 6-10: Shetlands
Day 11: Ferry back to Aberdeen
Day 12: Aberdeen to Edinburgh
Day 13: Edinburgh


FERRY INFORMATION

http://ca.directferries.com/scrabster_stromness_ferry.htm
Thurso to Orkney Islands: 90 minute crossing: £112

http://ca.directferries.com/kirkwall_lerwick_ferry.htm
Kirkwall, Orkney Islands to Shetlands: 7 hour crossing: £225

http://ca.directferries.com/lerwick_aberdeen_ferry.htm
Shetlands to Aberdeen: 12 hour crossing: £289


ORKNEY ISLANDS

https://goo.gl/maps/MPkfc31sWez


Two nights and two full days on the Orkney Islands... Scara Brae!

SHETLAND ISLANDS


The whole thing on Furkot:
Journey To The End of the Earth

Two weeks beyond John O'Groats...



Things to see:
Scotch!
Haunted Scotland
Beautiful spots