Tiger Chains & Parts

Top gear at 4000rpm has me going
about 100km/hr, so it looks like I have
stock sprockets on the Tiger.
A one tooth more relaxed front sprocket
knocks a couple of hundred RPM off
the bike at 100km/hr and takes the
edginess off low speed throttle.

Chain & Agony: The Return

Now that I’m off a shaft driven bike, I’m back into the black magic that is chain geometry!  A trip to Gearing Commander has me working out the details of an ’03 Triumph Tiger 955i’s chain and sprockets.  The stock set is a 18T (eighteen tooth) front sprocket and a 46T (forty-six tooth) rear sprocket.  The chain is a 530-50 114.

A number of riders suggested a 19T (nineteen tooth) front sprocket to calm the bike down a bit.  The chain and sprockets are happy right now, but when it finally comes to a change, I think I’ll go the 19T way.  Motorbike sprockets run backwards from bicycle ones – the smaller sprocket is attached to the engine, so the more teeth, the bigger the gearing.


The 530 114 chain on the Tiger has a pitch of 5/8 of an inch (the 5 is 5 x ⅛” – a 4 series chain would be 4 x ⅛” or half an inch of pitch).  Five-eighths pitch chains have a  roller diameter of 0.400″.    The 30 part of the 530 refers to roller width, which in this case is 3 x  ⅛” or 3/8th of an inch.  A 520 chain would have a roller width of 2 x ⅛”, or a quarter of an inch.  If you want to understand chain sizes, get a handle on that rule of 8 (all the numbers refer to eighths of an inch).
The 114 refers to the number of links in the chain (its length).

How to change a chain on a Tiger (video)
Triumph Tiger 955i parts list

<- 520 and 530 chains & sprockets widths compared

Tiger Changes of Oil

A fifty dollar US ($300CDN) magnetic
oil drain plug.

Triumph magnetic oil drain plugs.
(that’s a metric 14mm width, 1.5mm distance between the threads, 16 mm long drain plug).

Entertaining Triumph oil drain plug banter (and the idea to put hard drive magnets on your oil filter, which is what I’m doing instead of ordering an expensive custom drain plug from The States).

The Tiger has been using a bit of oil (which is evidently within spec) but I don’t know what the previous owner’s mechanic put in it – putting in not Mobil 1 Synthetic (which Triumph states is the preferred oil) would be a great way to make money on an oil change.  If I swap in the good stuff, then I know what’s in it.

I’m also putting on a K&N oil filter with a higher spec than the stock one and putting a couple of hard drive magnets on the bottom of it to catch any metal shavings dancing around in there.

I did the oil change yesterday. I’ve done thousands of oil changes (it put me through university).  If that oil was changed last fall I’m a monkey’s uncle.  The Triumph filter on it had rust on it, the drain plug didn’t look like it had been taken off any time recently.  Either the previous owner didn’t do it, or his mechanic lied to him.  The oil was black and punky too, looking like it had been in there a long time.

With that all done I’ll now look to see how much oil I’m missing every thousand kilometres (it’s 3-400ml at the moment – but goodness knows what was in it or for how long).  The moral here is change the oil when you buy a used bike – you can’t trust what happened before it was yours and oil is vital to keeping an engine running well.  I’m looking forward to seeing what new, correct oil does for the bike moving forward.

Other than keeping it shiny and lubricating cables and controls, there isn’t much more needs doing.

It’s supposed to be a beautiful long weekend.  I’m hoping to get out for some time on my very orange Tiger in my very orange Tiger shirt.

Overnight & Doable

Alright, some of the recent day dreaming has been pretty extreme.  With all the Ride the Highlands material I’ve been seeing recently, how about this…

The Longer Map
Bancroft Motor Inn
Saturday:  Elora to Bancroft:  357kms
Sunday:  Bancroft back to Elora via Algonquin:  561kms

Alternate shorter map
Saturday:  Elora to Barry’s Bay:  412kms  
Sunday:  Barry’s Bay to Elora:  453kms
Balmoral Hotel

The longer route:

100kms shorter:

It’s also handily central in the province – the easterners could meet up with the westerners at a central location, somewhere like the Opeongo Mountain Resort (3 bedroom cottages for $150 a night!).  Ride up Friday afternoon, settle in, leave everything in the cottage and enjoy a day of riding light on Saturday, Saturday night around the camp fire and then riding home on Sunday.  That’d be one heck of a weekend.  If it worked out well we could do it again at the end of September in the fall colours.

Dash to Ushuaia

The hardest financial part about a long trip is being out of work.  It’s not just costing you for the trip, it’s probably costing you even more for not being at work, but I got lucky in that department.  From the beginning of July until the end of August I’m off, and with the semester winding down all I can think about is how I’d best use that time.  With the paycheque covered, could I get to Ushuaia in the time I have off?

600km days in North America seem reasonable, and I wouldn’t want to lollygag around where I live anyway.  The point of this trip would be to go far in a relatively short time.  Moving through The States quickly also means not coughing up for first world accommodation any more than I have to.  600km days would wrap up the North American bit in five days.

Mexico is where it starts to get interesting, and it’s also fairly straightforward, though it gets dodgier the further south you go.  Travelling the length of Mexico means just over two thousand kilometres of riding.  At a reduced 400kms/day (more in the north, less in the south), I’d be at the border to Guatemala in another five days.   The urge to photograph would increase exponentially as I got into cultures and geographies I’ve never experienced before, so more time wouldn’t be wasted.

Central America is, by many accounts, the slowest part of riding down the Americas.  From the southern border of Mexico to the Colon ferry terminal in Panama is only 2300kms, but in that time you cross six international borders that aren’t exactly state of the art.  At a further reduced average of 200kms per day, it would be a twelve day ride crossing those borders, mountains and rain forests to Panama.  Thanks to the one certain way of getting around the Gap closing down, those twelve days through Central America needn’t be rushed.

Crossing the Darien Gap looked like it was solved with a brilliant ferry service to Cartagena, Columbia, but the service appears to have stopped.  There are other options, but run much less regularly and are more expensive.  The best seems to be the Stahlratte, which will take motorbike and rider to and from Panama to Cartagena in quite nice circumstances for about the price of your typical Canadian airline ticket.  The scheduled trips for 2016 pose problems though.

The Pan-American Highway portion of the ride is 10.300kms, and involves four international border crossings (five if you count the second Chilean crossing in Tierra del Fuego).  At 500km average days I’d be looking at 21 days of travel to get down the spine of South America to the end of the world.

It’s another three thousand kilometers back up Argentina to Bueno Aires in order to drop off the bikes for shipping back to Canada.  That’d be another six days at 600kms/day back to the big city and the flight home.

The Darien Gap poses problems because it throws the schedule off.  With the ferry not running it’s either a chartered boat (expensive, timing not great) or air freight (expensive but timely).  The schedule below is using the Stahlratte’s 2016 schedule:

… but even with those slack days before the trip over the Darien Gap, it still just fits into a summer off.  Air freight over the gap is also an option that could shift those six days in waiting in Panama to the push down South America.

Shipping back from Buenos Aires looks possible but unclear.  The most likely connection would be overseas from B.A. to NYC, probably getting the bikes back towards the end of October.  A weekend flight to NYC, picking up the bikes and riding home would be the final bit of this epic journey.

That guy already looks like he’s on his
way to Ushuaia !
He builds entire luggage systems,
knows his way around a firing range,
and brews beer, and that bike is up
for it!

To make it even more plausible I’d tap a couple of buddies who happen to have bikes totally capable of making this trip.

Jeff’s Super Ténéré and Graeme’s V-Strom would both be more than ready to join the Tiger on a trip south, and both riders have the kind of skills and experience that would allow them to carry me so that I barely had to do anything!  Jeff has been riding bikes since biblical times and Graeme has years of riding experience plus a long stint in the military, so he can read maps and everything!  I could wander around taking photos of butterflies and videoing bikes winding through the Atacama while these two made sure we were moving in the right direction.  Having a couple of capable, experienced riders on this burn south would help keep it on schedule.

Adventure motorcycling bits are wicked expensive!

I’d take Austin’s advice in Mondo Sahara and change all the wearable bits (tires, chains, fluids, etc) prior to leaving, but otherwise the bikes would be as they are.  A Triumph, Yamaha & Suzuki tumbling down the Americas over a brief summer.  If we’re not getting manufacturer support (unless all three band together in an alliance against the unholy absolutism of celebrity BMW adventure motorcycling!), maybe we can chase down some support gear.

We could do a lot worse than an assisted walk through the Twisted Throttle adventure catalogue.  They’d do popular Japanese bikes like the V-Strom and Super10, but they also offer a lot of kit for my older Triumph.

The last weeks of school get pretty manic.  Daydreaming of massive rides that last all summer is a survival mechanism.

Links & Maps

Info on the Bueno Aires to North
America transport is thin on the
ground- we might have to ride
home from NYC!

Elora, Ontario to Colon Ferry Terminal Panama.  7040kms

Crossing the Darien Gap:  Drive the Americas.  Ferry service stopped.

Cartagena to Ushuai back to Buenos Aires.  13,363kms  (20,403kms total)
Colon Ferry terminal to Cartagena; $360US with a cabin – 18 hour crossing

A summer tumbling down the Americas (timeline)

Air Canada’s bike shipping: a bit dodgy.  But freight options exist.

HU: shipping your bike

Boxing a bike

Driving Your Own Learning

This quote was used in a presentation I gave in 2013. The revolution is
sneaking up on us, changing our habits and how we think and learn
without us even realizing it.

Recently a number of people have told me something along these lines: “I don’t have to remember anything any more, I can just Google it.”  I don’t necessarily disagree, but this approach to off-loading knowledge does raise some interesting questions.  In a best case scenario we end up with people who have the cognitive freedom to make more diverse and interesting connections, but more often I see the other side of the coin, where people are using technology to reduce their effort and involvement.

With information readily at hand, we still fall back on old
concepts of information management in order to try and
understand it.  Computers don’t use file folders, the text we
save on a computer isn’t even text
, but rather than update
our ideas of how information is being stored, we force it into
paper based memes so we can relate inaccurately..

When knowledge was rare and few people read or owned books the holding of knowledge internally made you powerful.  Being able to learn and retain information was a key focus of education in those days.  That rigorous approach, which was a necessity because of the scarcity of information, produced tough minded academics who could dismiss the unintelligent if they couldn’t internalize what was needed.  Our school system today is a historical descendant of that information scarce world – still testing students on information that is readily available to them.

Yet we still value that academic rigour, and for good reason.  A student who develops the mental toughness to internalize and retain information, even if they could just Google it, is building habits that will allow them to tackle increasingly complex materials and processes, especially when that knowledge is implicit to skillsets that demand immediate response.  If you’ve got to Google how to spell every word in your essay, you aren’t going to write a good essay.  If you have no understanding of the French Revolution, including what led to it and what happened after, you’ll be hard pressed to create a nuanced presentation about it, no matter how handy you are at Google Presentations and searches.  Using the proliferation of information as an excuse to do less is where we run into problems.

The information revolution has pushed cross curricular
collaboration into overdrive.  Formerly siloed branches of
academia are finding connections through the free-flow of
digital information – a good example of the information
revolution being used to enhance rather than minimize effort

Vehicle based digital control systems offer an interesting parallel to information technology and learning.  In racing the electronic subsystems that have evolved in vehicles aren’t used for safety, they are used to increase lap times and allow the vehicle operator to reach limits and stress equipment to levels before unimaginable.  They don’t crash less than they used to, and when they do crash they tend to be going faster than before.  Digital enhancement of driving skill is the focus of racing electronics.

Electronic controls on vehicles designed for the general public don’t increase operator ability, they leap in and interfere with it.  As a skilled driver I am able to stop a car in snow in a significantly shorter distance than computer controlled anti-lock brakes (locking the wheels causes them to build up snow in front of the tires stopping the car sooner, but anti-lock braking keeps the wheels spinning, preventing that from happening).  For most people who are happy to operate a two ton vehicle with no understanding of vehicle dynamics or interest in improving their skills, anti-lock brakes are a saviour – they prevent those incompetent drivers from having to care.  Most cars come with anti-lock brakes nowadays for that reason.  Instead of improving the humans we developed systems to take over from them.

Google’s self-driving car is the logical conclusion of the electronic controls that have been seeping into vehicles over the past thirty years.  For the vast majority of people a self-driving car is a far better way of getting around than them doing it themselves because they do it so poorly.  For the few who are willing to work at it, electronics could amplify their skill, but those kinds of electronics aren’t an option in cars sold to the public.  The lowest common denominator (the indifferent human operator) dictates public sales and determines what everyone can have.  The result of this human expectation deflation is to demand less from everyone.  Even those who want to learn more eventually won’t because the skills required are obscured by mandated electronics.

I can’t wait to get stuck behind one of those when I’m parking.
I need to develop a jammer so I can stop that car and drive around it

The trajectory electronic vehicle controls have taken parallels the path that information technology and learning is on.  If we’re not bothering to remember anything any more because we can Google it and not bothering to learn anything any more because a computer can do it, we end up at a pretty dark conclusion.

Ignorance of computers in people who use them constantly gets me so wound up because you can’t effectively use a tool if you don’t know how it works.  Before school our cafeteria is full of teens using information technology with no understanding of how what they’re using works.  I walked by a health class the other day and the teacher said, “you guys and your phones… I’d be happier if you were all just talking to each other (and not doing class work) than I am with you all looking at screens.”  Less than 1% of students in my school take any computer courses in order to understand how they work, yet pretty much all of them depend on computers every day all day – and many teachers are expecting them to integrate that same technology into their learning.

Your modern race-car steering wheel has more in common
with a space shuttle console than a wheel.

The race car driver who is tweaking their electronics in order to improve lap times does so because they have an in depth understanding of how the technology at their disposal can improve their process.  You can’t use electronics to improve your performance if you know nothing about how this technology works; modern racing drivers and engineers are all electronics experts, modern students are not and neither are the vast majority of their teachers, yet electronics continue to insinuate themselves into learning. Like the intervening vehicle management systems that assume control in order to do a better job than indifferent drivers, so educational technology is stepping in to assume control of learning for indifferent students and teachers.

Until we start treating education technology as an enhancement to learning  rather than a replacement for it we remain headed on the same trajectory as the driverless car. If that is the case we’d be more pedagogically correct to ban digital tools in learning until we’ve clarified the learner as the race car driver who will understand and use educational technology to amplify their effectiveness, and not the gormless driver on public roads who needs technology to step in and do their work for them.