Naked Connie

I put the Concours up for sale for a very reasonable $1200 and immediately got a bunch of low ball offers.  After a week of talking to cheap idiots I pulled it back off Kijiji, this bike deserves better than that.  I sympathize with people who can’t afford the hobby, but I never agreed to support that charity.

Jeff’s recent adventures with getting an old bike to modify into a cafe racer got me thinking about what a naked Concours might look like.  The ZG1000 is based on the Ninja sport bike (one of the reasons it’s so agile), so as a donor bike it has a lot going for it.  I wasn’t the first to wonder…

It shows how clean  you can make the engine and wiring without all the plastic covers, not radical enough though.

That’s more like it!  The logo is a bit heavy handed though.  The rear seat frame is a bolt on piece.  Shortening the bike doesn’t even require cutting.  The front end on this is also what I’m aiming for.

Love the paint on the gas tank.  It makes me look forward to stripping mine.  No airbox and exposed air filters are sweet.
Stripped down but looks half finished.

Front and rear fenders are sweet.  Suspended seat and tail look a bit awkward though.
I’m interested in a single seat saddle, not so much for a bobber look, but for a historical connection.

I stripped off the front fairings, mirrors and windshield.  That has to be about twenty pounds right there.  At the back I removed the pannier frames and the rear tail light assembly.  That’ll be another easy ten pounds worth of odds and ends.  By the time I’m done, this bike will be an easy 100lbs lighter.

The entire rear frame that holds the panniers, seat and rear light assembly is bolted on under the seat.  Removing it seems pretty straightforward.  With the rear frame gone, the Concours starts to look more like a streetfighter than a sport tourer.  With the back end gone it was easy to remove the rear tire and get into the shaft drive which has been leaking.

While I was stripping things down I removed the bar risers, which lowered the controls a couple of inches and further lightened the bike.  With all the plastic and back end metal work off, the bike has already undergone a dramatic diet.  People tend to pick smaller, lighter bikes to cafe, but as I’m neither small nor light, the Concours makes for a big, muscly and quiet unique power cafe racer project.

With everything in the process of a strip down, I was easily able to get the back wheel off and uncover the shaft drive axle.  It’s been leaking, but some research on CoG (the Concours Owners Group, which I just re-upped my membership on) suggested that a leaking shaft drive can be the result of over filling, which it was.  I’m going to clean it all up, fill it to spec and then keep an eye on it before I go all crazy tearing it down (which looks like a hassle because you’ve got to heat parts to get them apart).

I’m hanging on to the Concours because of some magic moments on it.  The sound of that engine at full song is exceptional.  The thought of giving it away after all the work done grates on my nerves as well, especially to some tool who is just looking for a handout (one guy, after trying to talk it down $500 then complained about the state of the fairing – screw him).  Had I sold the Connie I’d have gone looking for a bike I could strip down and customize.  Hanging on to the Concours means I’m doing that with a low mileage bike full of new parts.  One that I’m already really familiar with.

Since I’m not depending on the Concours to be my everything bike any more it can become a blank canvas, which is what I was looking for in the first place.  A stripped down, restyled Concours isn’t going to be a Concours any more, but it is going to exploit that big Ninja engine and nimble handling it already had.  Best of all, I get to hang on to those fantastic gold rims, and build up a custom around them.  Much better that than my resurrected ZG1000 going to motorcycle welfare.

Even the instrument cowl is a big, heavy old thing.  I’m aiming for an analogue speedometer and then a
microprocessor controlled LCD screen.

Don’t know if I’ll keep the Ironman theme, but I might, it’s eye catching.

Someone somewhere might be looking for just this thing!

All that weight hanging behind the rear wheel will be gone.  The Concours always felt frisky for a big
bike, I can’t imagine what it’ll feel like with all that weight gone.  A custom LED tail light in in the planning.

I’m going to take a note from Jeff and see if I can sell off parts others might need for their complete
Concours in order to help pay for the bits I need for mine.

Bar riser still on to the left, the one on the right is a couple of inches lower.
With the mystical, multi-talented Tiger on hand, the Concours can take its time becoming a specialist.
It seems happier with that prospect.  So am I.

A Winter without Winter

These little imaginings are a nice escape, and if I ever become pointlessly rich, I’ll be able to torment friends and family who ride with ridiculous Top Gear like challenges.

I’ve been monkeying around with Furkot and have come up with a themed trip to the end of South America and back.  Starting in October, just as the darkness and cold is closing in on Canada, we head south.  Over the next six months while ice and snow reign in the north, we enjoy equatorial heat and spring in the southern hemisphere.

We reach the southern terminus of our trip in mid-winter/summer (December 21st) on the longest day, and then begin the climb back up the globe on the other coast of South America before finally stopping in Rio and shipping the bikes back to NYC.  With the best part of three months to get south, this isn’t a ragged rush to the end and should offer time to really get a sense of the places we’re passing through.

We’d be in Buenos Aires two weeks after Ushuaia, coincidentally, just when the Dakar Rally kicks off, which would be an exciting thing to try and follow on lightened motorcycles (we could store most of our luggage in B.A. while we chased the race).  

The Dakar wraps up in mid-January after we follow it into the Andes and through Bolivia before coming back to Argentina for the start/finish.  We’d recover in Buenos Aires and then begin making our way north into Brazil.  A tour of Brazil would have us seeing the Amazon before coming back down to Rio.

If we left South America from the port of Rio and headed back to New York City, it would take about three weeks on a slow boat; a good time to rest, recover and write!

The final piece would be the two day ride home from NYC to Southern Ontario in April, just when we’re ready for spring in Canada.

The Five Thousand Dollar Challenge

The evil-rich me would offer to pay for the trip, but we’d be riding the whole way on bikes that cost less than $5000 Canadian (Top Gear style).

I’m still crushing on Tigers.  I think I could talk this one down to $4200 to get it under the $5000 limit with taxes.

An oil change and a check of the obvious bits (chain, tires, cables) and I’d be ready to go.

The North American bit will be a lot of tarmac, but the Central and South American bits will take some tougher tires, which I’d aim to pick up en route.

A quick trip to Twisted Throttle (who have a whack of 1050 Tiger gear) and I’d be ready to take on the escape from winter.

With a $5000 limit on the bike (taxes in), what would you take?

Some 1050 Tiger Farkling

Engine Guard
Tires for Central/South America
Hand guards

Ride Planning Tools: Furkot

Another benefit of doing a trip as a class project was pushing me to find alternatives to Google Maps, which I generally use for trip planning.  It makes pretty maps and I like that I can get a sense of what I’m looking at through street view and satellite imagery.  It’s relatively easy to use and lets you quickly put together distances, though not easily in segments.

Google Maps lets you switch to Google Earth view and show the geography of the area (in this case The Twisted Sisters
the top motorcycling road destination in the US).  It makes for pretty maps, but I had to add in extra
waypoints to keep it off the boring highways and on the interesting tarmac.

Where Google Maps really falls short is on longer trip planning as it tends to be car focused and can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to sit on an interstate all day in a box.  Trying to coerce Google Maps onto twisty roads is a tricky business, especially with limited way point options.  You quickly run out of pins to stick in the map when you’re constantly fighting the software’s predilection for making your trip as short and boring as possible.

Google Maps’ real talent is ease of sharing – it’s easy to get links or embedding code.

Being back in the classroom has me looking for escapism, so I’ve been reading ADVrider’s Epic Ride Reports.  There is nothing like reading a ride report from someone’s RTW trip to set you free from a regimented schedule.  While on there I came across a couple’s ride from Toronto and around the US.  Chelsey was planning their trip on Furkot, which I’d never heard of before.  This piqued my interest because some of my students would benefit from an easier/more fully featured digital trip planner.

Getting into Furkot was pretty straightforward, you can login using a social media account.  It took me about five minutes to transfer my pieces of Google Map from my road trip project into it, and there were no stingy limits on way points.
It was when I got into the details that Furkot really lit up.  Not only does it auto-set your stops for each day based on what you think your mileage is going to be, but it’ll also find you hotels and preset you gas stops based on the range of your vehicle.

When you make a map you can keep it private or share it, and if you share it you immediately get a link to it.  Furkot also gives you a share page which has more social media connections (left) than I thought existed, so it shares well.

I only monkeyed around with it for twenty minutes, but I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface.  You can set your trip to your vehicle and I get the sense that a motorcycle selected trip gives you motorcycle specific results.  I look forward to sharing it with my class tomorrow as well as playing with it more myself.

Where the journey’s the thing…

In the meantime I’ve been thinking about Google Maps.  The API for Maps is open and used by lots of people to create custom mapping applications.  Had I more free time on my hands I’d get into it and build out a motorcycling focused mapping app using Google Maps.  The idea came up at the Lobo Loco rally as well.  A rally specific app that allows for many GPS way points and more motorcycling focused roads would be a real treat.  As would a simplified interface that would work from the busy and limited input environment of a motorcycle saddle.

A simplified G-Maps that focuses on the ride would be a cool project.

Sharing Interests to Prompt Self-directed Writing

The idea of genuine communication and showing students teachers as people rather than representatives of the education system has appeared several times on the PLN lately.  Consequently, transitioning from summer to the school year has me overlapping my writing subjects.  This was originally published on Tim’s Motorcycle Diaries

I’m back in the classroom again and teaching English for the first time in more than a year.  I took a senior essentials English class mainly because few people want to teach it (teachers like to teach people like themselves – in this case academically focused English students), and it fit my schedule.  Essentials English is just as it sounds.  These are weak English students who are getting what they need to graduate and get out into the workplace, they aren’t post-secondary bound and tend to find school pointless.

The trick with students this bullied and indifferent to the school system is getting them to read and write at all.  Rather than drag them into a text book or make them watch the department copy of Dead Poets Society in order to prompt some writing, I thought I’d introduce them to my insanity.  In a week where we’re all getting to know each other it helps if students see what you’re into.  Showing your hobbies and interests is a good way to have them become familiar with you and relax a bit.  If they get excited about the idea of planning a trip and it prompts them to write, it’s a many birds with one stone situation.

With some support, students quickly got into planning a trip.  28 days, unlimited budget!

The plan was pretty straightforward: you’ve got four weeks (28 days) starting next Monday.  Assume you’ve got an unlimited budget for a road trip (gotta travel on the ground).  Where would you go?  What would you do?  On the second day I gave them some pointers on Google Maps and some planning tools like a calendar and how to make notes online and they were off.  At the moment it looks like I’ve got pages of writing from students who generally don’t.  The research they’ve been doing also lets me diagnose their reading level.

Needless to say, I bravely volunteered to present first.  It doesn’t feel like homework when you enjoy doing it, and mine was obviously going to be a motorcycle trip.  I probably could have gone more bonkers on bike choice, but I have a sentimental attachment and some practical necessities that prompted my choice (all explained in the presentation).  Rather than go for the South American adventure, I decided to focus on The States, which has tons to offer, especially if you aren’t sweating the budget.

Norman Reedus’ RIDE gave me an idea of where I’d like to go, the question was, could I get to the locations in the show and back home in 28 days?

Here’s what I’m presenting:


I presented this to the class two days before it was due.  Seeing an example helps and gave me a chance to explain my own process in putting together the trip (deciding on a vehicle, breaking the trip into sections, etc).  Many of them had collected data but were having trouble formulating it into a written project or verbal presentation (their choice).


That photo I doctored of a VFR800 a couple of years ago came in handy!

Another side benefit of something like this rather than a boiler plate reading and writing diagnostic is that is gives students a lot of control over the direction of their writing, which means I get to learn what they’re into, which helps me remember who each person is as well as offering me relevant subjects I can insert into future projects.

I’m hoping they surprise themselves with the results.  If I catch some of them in the future staring wistfully at Google Maps instead of playing pointless FLASH games I’ll know that they’ve been bitten by the travel bug too!

It’s a lot to try and pull off in 28 days, but when the budget is unlimited, I want more miles! Literacy weak students often have trouble with basic digital tools – they were all screen grabbing Google Map images by the end of the first day though.  This’ll help in all sorts of classes.
Into the Rockies ASAP, then down the coast, across the mountains again, and then up the Appalachians home.
Multiple destinations on Google Maps is a simple enough process if you know how.  Everyone does now.


Yellowstone!  Riding over a mega-volcano. No one in the class realized we lived so close to this impending disaster.  It led to an impromptu Geography lesson.


Death Valley and across the South West to the Twisted Sisters on the way to the Big Easy.
Back north in the Smokey Mountains and Appalachians.
I was thinking maybe an H2R or RC213 in a trailer, but then that meant driving a truck and trailer all over the place.
Better to be on two wheels all the time, and on the descendant of my first bike crush.

Students were very curious about my choices.  How you travel says a lot about you.
 NOTE:  at the end of the course more than half the class chose this project as a summative five minute presentation, and they all exceeded the time, media and planning requirements on it.  Who said English projects couldn’t be enjoyable and engaging?