Time to do some bike maintenance. This is what happens when your countershaft seal fails on a Rotax 652:
Disgusting doesn’t cover it. Oil-soaked grime? Getting closer. Regardless, it’s quite interesting because my intake valves are pristine. Gorgeous. No buildup whatsoever. This is in start contrast to the time when the BMW dealer in Germany set the timing wrong and I ended up with a non-running motor thanks to the generous crusting on said intake valves. Speaking of valves, I dug in to check valve timing, which was spot-on. It’s never been out of spec. I think I’m moving to 15000km checks rather than the 10K recommended.
Oh, those ITBs? That ITB. It’s a Dellorto.
Whoa! Ducati Party!
Ducati of Detroit hosted a Ladies’ Moto Night this week and it was fun! Started with registration, snacks (oooo, very Italian, too!), wine, and socializing. Things then really kicked off with an intro from staff and presenters.
The first station (there were five) was intro to different types of bikes. They had three Scramblers, a Panigale, two Monsters, and a Diavel to sit on. The Hypermotard was sold out and the Multistrada was in the back somewhere. Lots of discussion on seat heights, no surprise.
The second station featured different types of gear and the Arai guy. Good for me, I’ve never been able to try on Arai’s long oval fit helmets. They definitely would work, but I’ll likely stay with HJC for now. The staff had an array of different materials to choose from for jackets and boots, and stressed the importance of CE armoring. Nice!
The third station was the crazy one. How to pick up your bike. The staff had a dry Scrambler with frame sliders and every lady was given the opportunity to practice picking it up. We did the back it up with your butt method. I learned that I’ve been putting my butt too low on the seat all this time, and that’s why I struggle with the GS. The Derpa? No prob. But my damn GS…. Anyway, I feel a lot more confident about that now. The other BMW rider in my group and I were just staring at each other like “OMG, we finally get it!” and all of the ladies were carrying on about butt position. Honestly, it sounded like a maternity ward – “Move your butt!” “Spread your feet out more!” “Now you got it, PUSH! PUSH! Keep pushing!” “YAY!! You did it!!”
The fourth station – wow – was an old Monster 620 on their dyno. The shop does sport bike tuning, focusing on Ducati (of course). They welcome all makes to the dyno, but readily admit that they really don’t know much about other EFI systems. I giggled and took that sucker all the way up to the redline in top gear, it really does go 140mph standing still. A few bangs off the rev limiter and I let it back down. It shifts like a GS (bang bang bang), but smoothly. That would be a fun track bike!
The last station was basic bike maintenance. As the night was winding down and all of the ladies in my group were riders with some experience, we mostly just talked about tyre pressure and then BSed about bikes with the senior tech and builder. He showed us two project bikes that they are working on, a race bike and a Scrambler. Seems like everyone is working on Scrambler builds, which is awesome mostly because I am tired of chopper and bobber builds.
We wrapped up with some swag bags and super cute tshirts. The team at Ducati Detroit definitely pulled out all of the stops for this event and it showed. I was very impressed at the thoroughness of the presentations – appropriate for all levels of experience – and the completeness of the event – covering so many aspects of riding. The dyno and the tipped over Scrambler were definitely highlights for me as I’ve never been on a bike dyno (many many car dynos, but no bikes) and getting coached on how to pick up a downed bike was incredibly helpful.
This past weekend marked the 15th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death in a violent racing crash at Daytona Speedway. Earnhardt’s death was due to a basal skull fracture in which his skull separated from his spine. The impact tore his harness and his body was further injured by impact to the steering wheel. To this day, no single person has made a greater or more significant impact on automotive safety. Earnhardt’s death shined a spotlight on the available safety gear and structural limits of vehicles that was far brighter than Nader’s dim bulb – millions of people watched their hero refuse to don a full face helmet and HANS device due to the restrictions they would impose, and avoid an antisubmarining harness for the same reasons. That freedom of movement cost him his life.
Today even the lowest levels of club racing require extensive safety gear, all more than Earnhardt chose, and participants wear it as a badge of honor. The day you have to upgrade to a HANS to keep racing is a big day. Automakers worked with suppliers to redesign seat belts and airbags, and the old standby – the crumple zone – got a remake in process, too. I spent some time with one of GM’s NASCAR safety engineers, who said that in the months after the accident, they spent most of their time meeting with safety teams from the “regular” car lines, all who wanted to upgrade wherever they could, because people were dying. It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact Earnhardt’s death had on passenger safety.
Coming back to my title, who will be the Dale Earnhardt of motorcycling? Who will be the person who is so well-known and respected that everyone follows? Who will shine a bright light on our safety issues, make the world turn around and notice? The adventure and dirt bike crowds seem to spend enough time picking themselves up that gear is not a question for them. Brittany Morrow has done an excellent job advocating for more gear, and by and large, the sportbike crowd is slowly coming around. People like one of my old coworkers, though, aren’t. In one sentence, he explained that even a 3/4 helmet was too limiting to his hearing and visual field while bemoaning the deaths of two of his riding crew buddies who were hit while processing through a red light to keep the group together. Motorcycling is a club, but it is a club of clubs, with no unifying center. Unlike NASCAR and the automotive world, there is no one person everyone recognizes, no one who can impact the entire group.
Our chrome-and-black-leather colleagues (and certainly many of our friends in the power rangers) have a lot in common with Mr Earnhardt when it comes to choice. Safety gear is limiting – it restricts you in some ways and takes a while to get comfortable in. Choosing which gear to wear is a privilege, and I understand that people want that privilege. The AMA continues to give lip service to the notion that wearing gear so basic as a helmet is a choice. As a senior driver on the NASCAR circuit, Mr Earnhardt used his privilege of choice to avoid the single most effective piece of gear the safety guys had to offer that year – the HANS device – and paid with his life for it. No doubt, the crash would have put him out of racing for a while anyway due to the failure of his harness. But he likely would have lived to tell the tale. Riders without helmets don’t.
It’s time for motorcycling to catch up with our four-wheeled friends on the safety front. I’m hoping that we don’t need our own Dale Earnhardt to make the case for stronger equipment rules. And if we do, who would it be, anyway?
It’s on the bike! A few notes….
One. The plastic bit that comes up at the back is a bit annoying. My butt is going to have to acclimate to that.
Two. I sit closer to the “tank” than on the other seats. This is ergonomically weird, but kind of cool. I can see the top of my windshield for the first time ever.
Three. The height is perfect. My feet graze the ground nicely. I can get them down plenty, all the way, actually. One foot down is super comfy.
The star of the NAIAS needs to be the Chrysler Pacifica for one simple reason: It’s the only new vehicle or concept shown that is actually going to make its builder a ton of money. The gorgeous concepts from Buick and Acura are gorgeous. The Chevy Bolt EV is technology realized. The Golf R put-your-hands-in-the-air-and-wave-them-like-you-just-don’t-care is cool. The Pacifica? It’s the first time something new has happened in the minivan world in a long time. The hybrid drivetrain will likely find its way into the rest of FCA’s big vehicle fleet, making FCA the first company to produce a huge number of huge hybrids. I predict that the Pacifica Hybrid will have a 30+% take rate and be the “it” car for quite a while. The fact that anyone cares about anything else at the show is telling.
What is up with the suppliers? Not only is I75 littered with a quadruple dose of supplier billboards (how many turbos do you need?), but the show floor is starting to add more suppliers. Could this be a trend back to a more regional focus with the Tiers taking their rightful places as technology developers? Who knows. If it wasn’t for them, though, the floor would be even more empty. With five makes not showing, it’s kind of bare in there.
On to the actual flakes….
Look at them….
OMG, the huge, giant flakes of sparkle in so many colors!!
We have been looking at silver cars for so long. Deep creamy color started to make a little bit of a comeback about two years ago, and we have seen a few more metallic colors like that ridiculously luscious cinnamon on the Ford Flex. This year, we got flakes. I’m not saying that we are going full-on metalflake here, but these are some big flake metallic colors and they are very very welcome in my world. I’m curious to see how far this goes, and if it develops into a trend or is just a little bit of fun in an otherwise black, silver, and white world.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of Hawk Performance brake linings. Ever since my first set of HPs pads on the B5, I’ve been running various Hawk compounds for various purposes. I usually match the compound of the brake linings to the tyres I’m running, so HPS with my winters and HP+ with my summers.
Recently, I needed to repair a leaky power steering line and in the process discovered that I had a loose pad on the front axle. Further investigation found that the lining had separated from the backing plate. This is pretty much a catastrophic failure for a brake pad, so I’m glad I caught it when I did. Considering what the car has been through, I wasn’t too upset with the situation – the car sits for longer periods of time in the summer when I don’t really drive it at all. Add in all the winter salt and who know what’s going on there.
We do some brake bonding at my employer – designing the adhesives used to hold the linings on the back plates, so I was curious to hear what Hawk had to say. I reached out through their customer service contact page. A few days later, they came back, asking for photos, which I gladly sent in. Almost immediately, the answer came back – “we can warranty those for you.”
So, I have to say, I’m pretty darn pleased with Hawk. Not only for the performance of their linings, which I really like, but also their Customer Service team, who took care of this issue. No doubt there will be some sort of work on their end and hopefully my pad set was an anomaly. It’s refreshing to know that they stand behind their product even when things go pretty wrong.
Thank you, Hawk!
I don’t think any adventure rider ever goes out with the plan to field strip their motorcycle, but most drag a few tools along anyway. The question that I get a lot is “which tools should I take?” The answer is “the ones you are going to use.” Every rider can answer that question differently, and I’d like to give some guidance on how I set up my tool kit for a ride.
Firstly, it’s not a question of which tools to take, but which jobs might I have to do. Simply listing a bunch of tools is great, but with each bike out there having different fasteners, it’s a bit of a crapshoot to just say “T27, T45, 13mm, and 10mm” or such. I learned that the hard way on a trip that involved a rental bike and every Torx bit except the T50 that I needed to make a small repair. On the rental bike. My bike at home has no T50s. Ooops. So lets get onto the general list of jobs.
First up is battery and bulb replacement. This is a no-brainer. The most common cause of dead modern bike is dead battery, so that gets top priority. Getting to the battery on most bikes requires some fairing removal, so start with those pieces. I need a T20 and a T25, then a pair of 10mm wrenches to get the battery cables loose. In many parts of the EU, you have to carry spare bulbs anyway, so may as well be equipped to install them, right? A small Phillips screwdriver will get me into my turn signals and tail lamp assembly. My headlamp is thankfully tool-free.
Fairing removal is generally pretty much more of the same, so you are covered for getting to the innards of the bike if necessary once you can get to the battery box.
The next job I like to prepare for is untweaking forks. Any bumps or bangs into stationary objects can lead to tweaked forks, which can make riding challenging at best. Untweaking is easy and quick and gets you back in motion. This is generally a one-tool job, as most bikes use the same fasteners on the top and bottom of the tripletree. The potential additional bits would be whatever is required to loosen the front axle and its pinch bolt. The ability to loosen things up and straighten a tweaked fork in the field is basically a superpower – it can put you back on the road/trail in a few minutes with only a few quick fasteners and jabs to the fork assembly. Same goes for lever and bar adjustments – few tools, more fun.
Chain adjustments are a matter of course, and that means the wrenches or sockets required to loosen the rear axle and the bits – in my case, two different Torx bits, thank you BMW – required to move and tighten the adjusters. Fairly simple, and figure that if your trip is any longer than about 1000 miles, this is a good thing to plan for.
There are a few other standard tools that are worth mentioning and can serve many purposes. If you know that most of the bolts and other fasteners on your bike are, say, 10mm, by all means, throw a 10mm combination wrench in there. Just don’t throw every wrench you own in – you won’t need them and they are extra weight. I also like to carry a small needle-nosed electrician’s plier. This includes a wire cutter, wire stripper, and crimper, which will get me through most electrical fiascos. I make sure that in some of my tool-selecting-activity above, I’ve brought a 3/8″ ratchet and a 6″ extension, along with that 10mm socket that fits on so many of the bolts on my bike. A 12mm socket if I’m on the Kawasaki. Another must-have tool I bring is a strange old pair of Knipex Style 9 pliers, which I’ve found one hundred and one uses for, from pulling fuel injectors to replacing drum brake springs. Those who find tyre changes fun and exciting will no doubt plan for them and pack tyre irons and an inflator. An inflator is a good idea anyway.
Speaking of brakes, check yours, and check your tool kit from the three big jobs at the top. You will likely find that you have already packed what is needed to replace brake pads. On a trip of more than 3000 miles, you might want to consider having that option. My calipers come off with the same bits needed to loosen the axles, so I’ve got this covered already.
The very last thing I bring along, and only when I’m leaving home for a while, is my GS-911, a diagnostic tool that lets me reset my EFI system. I’ve never had to use it on the road, thankfully, and it’s become more of a talisman than anything else. It’s lightweight and peace of mind.
The potential jobs you might face on the road may vary from the ones I expect to face, and you should vary your toolkit accordingly. Do consider what you are willing to do yourself – there is a reason I don’t carry tyre irons. I don’t expect that even if I had them, I would change out a tube myself. Everyone is different with different limits and needs. Offroad riders might carry extra chain and chain tools. RTW riders may bring the entire shop. Or not. And commuters probably make do with a AAA card. I know that I do when I’m commuting. What’s important is to transition from the “what tools” mentality to the “what job” mentality, and then to pack accordingly. Like the Boy Scouts say – Be Prepared.
Finding the right riding partner for a trip is no easy task. Sometimes, it falls into place with a wave, other times, it’s a disaster of epic proportions. Here is a non-exhaustive questionnaire to help sort things out. Maybe it will help you clarify your limits as a rider, too. I personally would not hand this to anyone I met casually, but could see it being used as a guide or prior to a large tour where people did not know each other or the participants.
PDF version of the final document is here! – Riding partner checklist
Nothing like a good farkle, right?
Right before I left Germany, I saw an F650GS set up for fire department work. I promptly fell head-over-heels in love with the Einsatzfahrzeugzubehör, the emergency vehicle accessories. These consist of a front light bar and a solo seat with a luggage bin behind it. My days of two-up are over due to both of my pillions having grown to six feet tall-plus, so why pretend any more? This is a solo bike and I love it that way. More light is always better, too.
Last month, I scored the light bar (apparently the last extant one, too), and this month, I managed to score a solo seat from ebay.nl. Several trips to the local BMW dealer netted me the luggage bin and some of the other bits needed to install it. I’m still sorting out the lock cylinder and a few other mounting bits so I can complete the install of the luggage bin to the seat and the completed assembly to the bike.
The seat arrived with a weird padded roll on the back and some sort of mounting bracket that was unnecessary for my project. It came from a Police bike, so perhaps there was a special kind of box in the back?
I removed the roll and then the bracket.
Next, I test fit everything on the bike.
I particularly like the additional tie-down hoops on the sides of the bin. Those will come in handy. Of course, they will make it impossible to get into the bin when I’m using them, but whatever. The bin can become tool storage or home to things that are necessary for trips, but not needed at a moment’s notice.
The seat measures 800mm, twenty more than the 780mm seat that I normally use, and twenty less that the Dakar seat that is plush, but drives me crazy. If needed, I’ll cut this one down or perhaps even reupholster it to a new shape. Needless to say, I’m quite excited about bringing this all together.