Emissions & Where We Hide Them

Ah, the wisdom of the internet…

This article on how motorcycles might be less green than you think was shared by Zero motorcycles online.  A number of people underneath the article posted responses that had little to do with the article and more to do with a general hatred of motorcycles.  The loud pipe crowd seems to raised the ire of the general public quiet effectively.  Thanks for that.

I’d heard about the Mythbuster motorcycle pollution test mentioned in the article previously, and had seen annoyed responses pointing out how unfair it was.  I felt obliged to put something up that wasn’t just angry motorcycle ranting.

“The Mythbusters they refer to compared a 1990s family sedan to a 1990s Honda super bike. A fairer comparison would have been an 90’s Corvette vs. the Honda super bike (vehicles with similar performance and intent), but then it wouldn’t have been close. The other comparisons were equally unfair.  It seemed to be the result of what they had handy, and one of the mythbusters was a sports bike guy, so that’s what they used.

If you think hybrids are the magic bullet you should look into how current battery technology is created and retired, it isn’t pretty.  An accurate accounting of the e-waste from hybrid production and operation overshadows their minimal pollution output – you’re basically showing a green face to what is a very polluting industrial process. That hybrid vehicles are utterly tedious and heavy because they carry redundant power trains is yet another problem; heavy things are never efficient.

The idea that some bike owners remove pollution gear for performance is no less true for four wheelers – except when the idiot on my street straight pipes his massive Dodge pickup you can actually see the hole he’s making in the sky.  Meanwhile I’ll keep getting 50+mpg out of my Triumph Tiger.”

After that I started poking around to try and get a feel for just how magically ecological electric vehicles are.  It turns out lithium based batteries are nasty, both to create and to recycle:



“A Prius battery begins life in a dirty nickel mine in Sudbury, Ontario. This mine has caused enough damage to the surrounding area to be called a “dead zone.” There is no natural life of any sort for miles around. NASA used that area to test its Moon rovers because the area resembles its craggy surface. Acid rain from the toxins of the mine killed all the plant life in the area and washed away the hillsides. All of this sounds positively wonderful, but don’t worry, it gets better. These battery components are then shipped to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. After that, they make their way to China to be turned into nickel foam of sorts. Finally, the batteries make their way to Japan to be put into the cars, which are then shipped all around the world to happy Prius buyers who are anxious to drive their new hybrid.”

“EVs that depend on coal for their electricity are actually 17 percent to 27 percent worse than diesel or gas engines. That is especially bad for the United States, because we derive close to 45 percent of our electricity from coal. In states like Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, that number is much closer to 100 percent.”

“The initial production of the vehicle and the batteries together make up something like 40 percent of the total carbon footprint of an EV – nearly double that of an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle.”

We live in a time of compromise, but thinking that you’ve somehow solved the entire vehicular pollution thing by leaping into a hybrid or EV sourced from parts delivered by oil driven transport from all over the world and powered by whichever lowest hydro bidder your miserly government is supporting this week is a bit much.  The harder choice in the short term is to live with less, which no one is willing to do (that’s probably what’s driving hybrid/battery e-vehicle evangelism – a chance to bypass that choice).

I suspect that hydrogen fuel cells driving electrical motors are where we’ll go next in personal transportation (though why that’s only happening as a college project in motorcycling is a bit vexing).  Fortunately, Honda is doing something on the four wheeled front.  A super light weight hydrogen celled electrical vehicle bypasses the battery production nightmare, but then we aren’t moving toward light weight, minimalist vehicles.  Would you want to drive a thousand pound hydrogen vehicle next to a massive SUV?  That would be as dangerous as riding a motorcycle!

While that’s happening, advancements in nuclear engineering will hopefully drive us out into the solar system.  The outer planets are a virtually unlimited store of non carbon based fusion energy, we just have to get there and collect the fuel (which is rare on Earth).  If we took half of what we spend on military budgets world wide each year, we’d have an unlimited source of clean energy on tap within my lifetime.  Instead we just keep doing what we’ve always done, stumbling forward in ignorance driven by greed instead of driving for real global advances in sustainable energy production.

Of course, none of that matters to personal transportation if we can’t find a better way to store electricity locally.  Chemical batteries are an eighteenth Century solution to a twenty-first century problem.  We really need to start advancing hydrogen fuel cells, kinetic storage and other non-chemical battery technologies.  A near perfect scenario would be using d-He3 fusion to produce hydrogen with no carbon footprint.  The hydrogen then works as an electrical generator in a fuel cell as it fuses with oxygen producing pure water.

A truly zero emissions vehicle with an abundant and
powerful fuel supply?  I’m dreaming of that future.

I have no doubt that the internal combustion engine’s days are numbered and that the future is electrical.  Companies like Zero Motorcycles and even EVs like the Nissan Leaf are doing their part to improve electrical engine efficiency, but depending on globally sourced, polluting chemical battery technologies isn’t the future.  One day I’ll hop on my hydrogen fuel celled Zero Tsunami (because it produces only water, get it?) and zip off down the road knowing that I’m riding a vehicle that is truly sustainable.

Arguing between gasoline power and hybrid/EVs that depend on extremely polluting chemical battery technologies and fossil fuel driven electricity generation is like arguing whether your coal fed steam powered train is less polluting than my wood burning steam powered train – neither solve the problem, and one seems more about hiding it than fixing it.

Originally shared by Zero Motorcycles
Are motorcycles greener than cars? They are if you ride a Zero! Interesting discussion. Your thoughts?

Arguing on the internet, I should know better…

I’m beginning to think that a few years ago a very smart MBA type walked into auto manufacturers and said the whole environmental thing can be resolved by moving the burning of fossil fuels out of sight of the general public.

The issue with climate change is that it’s obvious to consumers that they are responsible! Every time they put gas in the car they’re burning it. Simply move the carbon production out of sight and everything is good again, and you get a brave new legion of e-vehicle evangelists who will fight tooth and nail to ignore any evidence of this shift.

That your intermediate step is itself very environmentally damaging is easy to ignore. State that the batteries used in electric vehicles are very recyclable and everyone (especially your believers) will happily state that this is what is happening. Don’t demand laws that require recycling, don’t have any oversight over what happens to batteries when they’re done.

With carbon emissions and the pollution from the new systems that hide it happily out of sight, the general public can get their pride on riding around in hybrid and electric vehicles and never once see the damage they are doing first hand. Problem solved!

1971 Triumph Bonneville: More Bike Archeology from Tires, Wheel Restoration & Rear Brakes

I got the rear tire off the rim today in the ongoing ’71 Bonneville project during a late March snowstorm. It had a Lien Shin tire on it. I’m unfamiliar with that brand and I can’t find a heat pressed time stamp on it. Tires produced before the year 2000 use a 3 digit code that makes it difficult to determine which decade they were made in (first two digits are month of manufacture, last digit is the year). Tires after 2000 use a four digit code (week # of manufacture followed by a the last two digits of the year, ie: 0501 would be the fifth week of 2001).  A 511 would be the 51st week (December) of a year ending in 1, ie: 1981, 1991.

While I couldn’t find a stamped date on the Lien Shin tire, there is a three digit date stamp on the Inoue front tire: 511.  Based on the bike’s last sticker on the SATAN license plate (’84), this probably dates the front tire to the 51st week (December) of 1981.  I was 12 when this tire was manufactured.  I’m still amazed that it works at all and the inner tube holds pressure.

Taking a tire this old and stiff off was tricky, but as with the TIger tire change last year, a judicious application of heat really helps soften the rubber and makes removal easier, especially in the winter.  It was -17°C outside so I put the shop heater next to the tire and let it warm up, then removing it with the irons was pretty easy.

Once I had the old rubber out of the way, I went at the rim with a wire brush and it cleaned off the surface rust well.  Some SOS soap pads and then a bout with the pressure washer out in the snow storm and the rim came up nicely.

Next time I have some time and space I’ll get the front tire removed and prep that too, then it’ll be time to order some wheel hardware (bearings and brake pads).  With the wheels rebuild, I’ll clean up the frame and repaint it and then it’s time to start putting the rolling chassis back together.

While I had the wheels off I took the rear brake apart.  I keep being surprised by how simple this bike is.  The rear brake is a mechanical mechanism, no hydraulics in sight.  You press on that big brake lever (it’s big because you need the mechanical advantage for it to work) and that pulls the rod connected to a spinner on the top of the rear brake drum.  The drum spins and applies the brake.  When you let go, a spring on the drum spinner disengages the brake.  You must get pretty good feel out of a direct mechanical system like this, and you’re not carrying any extra weight from a hydraulic system (fluid container, piston, pipes, caliper cylinders, etc), but I bet you’ve gotta have big calves to lock it up.

I’m back at work this week so it might be a few days before I take another swing at it, but it’s exciting to get to the point where the bike is enough pieces that I can see how it’ll go back together again.

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300kms in Two Days

It was a long winter this year, made particularly difficult by grinding through a second year of COVID19.  I find a great deal of satisfaction in spannering my own bikes, but that isn’t an end in itself for me, riding is.  With a few days off work and the weather finally breaking, I got over 300kms while I could.  Both the nineteen year old Triumph Tiger and the twelve year old Kawasaki GTR1400 worked like a charm.

Guelph Lake is still frozen…
All photos taken with a Ricoh Theta 360 camera mounted on a flexible tripod and set to shoot automatically every 10 seconds.  I select the good’uns and sort them out using the Ricoh 360 camera software and Adobe Photoshop.  If you want a how-to, here’s one:  https://www.adventurebikerider.com/how-to-capture-360-photos-while-riding-a-motorbike/  Here’re others!

That many-things-my-eyes-have-seen face!

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1971 Triumph Bonneville Restoration Project: Frame Breakdown & Rear Brakes

I’d initially planned to do a rolling restoration of the 1971 Triumph Bonneville project, but the state of the engine and my desire to get it back to a place where I can enjoy an updated, dependable but mechanically sympathetic restoration (I want the bike to retain its patina, but I also want it to be dependable) made a rolling restoration impractical.  The engine is lined up for a new 750cc head and electronic ignition system, but before all of that I have to get the frame and wheels sorted out so that I can put the upgraded engine back into a sorted rolling chassis.

To that end, it was finally time to take it to pieces, which also gave me a lot of space back in the one car garage once the bike stand was stacked to the side:

The frame out means I don’t need to fill half the garage with the bike stand.

Black rubber bands cover the frame to swingarm joints (to prevent water getting in?).

Way more space in the garage with the Bonnie in pieces.

With the bike in pieces, I’m restoring all parts that I can reuse.  This usually involves some WD40, a toothbrush or wire brush depending on how filthy it is, and then a dip in a hot ultrasonic bath for small pieces to get them back to fresh.

The front wheel Smiths speedometer.

Into the rear brakes. Like everything else on this old bike they are much simpler than modern hydraulic brakes.

Bringing old parts back from the brink is very satisfying.

The entire rear brake system – the brake lever is so long because it is the only mechanical advantage you have when applying the rear brakes.  Instead of using hydraulics to amplify your push on the pedal, the old Bonnie is a simple mechanical system.  You press the brake lever which pulls that long metal bar which rotates the top of the drums, pressing them into outside of the drum.  No hydraulics, and I bet you have to press that lever like you mean it to lock the rear wheel.

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You Didn’t Prepare Me for Post-Secondary

Over the past several years I’ve been contacted by graduates or their parents with a similar complaint:  why didn’t you prepare me/my child for post secondary math?

A few years ago it was a college bound student with learning challenges.  His mom was… outspoken (that’s being very charitable) while he was in school, but I was able to work well with him and he eventually went into information technology at a local college.  He dropped out in his first semester with failing maths grades.  Mom emailed me in a rage blaming me for this.  I pointed out that I teach computer technology and asked how he was doing in those classes (he was getting 90s).  That ended that particular interaction, but it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last.

I’ve also had students who I worked closely with both in class and on school teams, students who know me well enough to be straight up, get in touch while in post-secondary to say that they too are struggling with maths.  It’s a familiar refrain; a student who got high 90s in high school maths suddenly finds themselves dysfunctional in post secondary.  A recent multi-award winning graduate put it well: “when we’re given a problem, other students apply their maths skills like taking tools out of a toolbox.  They assess the problem and then apply the right mathematical approach to solve it.  I feel like we spent all our time learning mechanics on worksheets but spent no time contextualizing what we were doing.”  This would be like trying to learn how to play hockey by drilling yourself independently on stick handling, skating and shooting, but never contextualizing those skills as a whole in a game.

When some of our most academically decorated students come back to me with this kind of feedback, I’m left wondering how to address it.  I don’t think it’s fair that the blame falls entirely on teachers.  Thanks to our community’s everyone-can-go-to-university-if-they-want-to sense of privilege, many of our academic classes are populated by students without the background or interest in using what we’re trying to teach them.  This means teachers have to simplify and compartmentalize their content to such a degree that the students who actually need it aren’t getting it.  I frequently see students with weeks of absences who are still expected to earn a credit (you got auto-dropped at 10 absences when I was in high school).  When you’ve got students who barely attend, compartmentalizing the learning becomes a survival technique.  It also makes it nearly impossible to contextualize learning beyond single period lessons.

Last year my son was told, “don’t worry, everyone fails that unit” in his grade eleven maths class.  If I had a unit that everyone failed, my first assumption would be that I’m teaching it wrong and I’d change my approach, but one of the ways we appear to drag students to the end of the Ontario maths curriculum is to just keep pushing through it, regardless of comprehension, context or mastery of previous concepts.  This isn’t a new phenomenon, it happened to me in the 1980s too.

I’d quote statistics to you about how successful our graduates are once they leave the building, but no one in Ontario public education keeps those statistics.  Instead of quoting EQAO scores, what we should be doing is collecting data on the success rates of our graduates in post-secondary.  If we all claim to be about backward design, this kind of data would make that possible on a meta-level, but it’s better to fly blind, then we don’t have to take responsibility for those failures or change anything.

There is a lot of talk around destreaming as a cure-all to systemic prejudice, but the people framing it that way are usually the ones happy to see larger class sizes for everyone at a lower cost.  Streaming wasn’t designed to denigrate anyone, it was instituted to let classes focus on learner needs with higher needs students having smaller classes and students aiming at advanced post-secondary programs working in a room where everyone is driving for the same goals.  The unfortunate truth is the destreaming has already occurred thanks in large part to parents and guidance ignoring it.  When I last taught university level classes I found that less than half the class was university bound and a number of those directionless students were put into university stream to ‘keep their options open’.  In keeping their options open these students were knocking others out of contention.  In curriculums like English and mathematics, where skills development is vital in order for students to operate at the senior end of the program, this kind of watering down of intent hurts many of our graduates.

Even in my technology courses I see this.  My ‘M’ level courses are supposed to be for post-secondary bound students but I typically see 10-20% of the class coming out of credit poor essential and applied situations who have no intention of going into post-secondary.  I then spend an inordinate amount of my time catering to these high-needs children instead of helping the students who selected the right stream get to where they want to go.

I’m not sure why, with the pressure to reduce costs, we’re not offering alternate pathways that allow the students who don’t need senior classes to take alternate pathways.  An early graduation workplace/apprenticeship pathways option for students should be available for anyone who has passed the literacy and maths testing in grades 9 and 10.  If those students who would rather be out working were, we could refocus our classrooms on preparing the students in them for post-secondary success instead of watering everything down in order to babysit those who don’t want to be there.  Instead we’re all handcuffed by Ontario’s learning until eighteen law.  If we’re all really advocates for life-long learning, then it should be obvious that this doesn’t just happen in schools.  There would be many benefits to stepping away from this mandatory restriction and refocusing our classrooms on developing rich, contextualized learning opportunities for students who show up and want to be there in order to go on and tackle post-secondary specialities.

This issue goes well beyond maths, but the structured development of skills over many years in mathematics exacerbates the problem in ways that make it much more visible.

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Dairy of a Disenfranchised Coder

The first blog entry I ever wrote (about 18 months ago), spoke of risk aversion in students, but began with a brief ‘why I never pursued computers’.  This one opens that up a a bit and looks at how childhood interests never seem to fade away.

In the 1980s, I became interested in computers because my father wouldn’t buy me an Intellivision game console.  The Vic 20 we got instead became our gaming system, but it was much more.  I’ve carried a sense of intellectual superiority over game consoles ever since.  The Vic could plug in cartridges and play games, but where it really took off was with the datasette.  When we got our hands on that, we suddenly had the ability to save our work.  Before I knew it, I was begging my parents to drive to the only computer store in the area whenever a new COMPUTE! magazine came out so I could type out the basic programs in there.

None of this had anything to do with school.  Our junior high school had 3 Pets in the library, but it was typically a 2 week wait to get half an hour on one.  You had no chance of gaining any kind of familiarity with them.

It started all about video games, but quickly turned to coding.  Instead of buying the latest game (Cosmic Cruncher?), I was saving the paper route money for a 3k memory expander (I kept filling up the 3.5k of working RAM with code).  With more room to move, I began modifying those COMPUTE! programs, turning a road racing game into a Star Wars trench battle or the 8 key sound synthesizer into full keyboard synthesizer.

I’d shown friends what I was doing and soon Ataris and Apples began to appear in the neighborhood.  We’d dictate code while the fastest typer would hammer away at it, then we’d proof and run it.  Hours of speculation and experimentation about how changes might affect things followed.

There was no grade 9 computer course in high school, but I quickly leapt at the grade 10 one in 1985.  By then I had a Commodore 64 at home and we’d all discovered that if you had a good recording deck, you could sound record the cassettes that software came on.  There was a thriving pirating hub in high school with what looked like homemade mixed tapes.  A teacher once took one that was being passed in class and tried to listen to it, it wasn’t pretty.

That grade 10 class used a card reader.  We laboriously spent hours penciling in our lines of code, and would receive a printout off a dot matrix printer (which sounded like a machine gun tearing through silk).  I lasted about a month at this before I became determined to get a printer of my own.  No one else in the school had one, and the only place to find one was half way across the city.  Four bus transfers and a long night of travel got me back home with the printer, only to discover it was defective.  Another six hours on the bus and I was home again with the only dot matrix printer anyone had.

I coded at home, printed out my results and got to bypass the agony of the card reader.  Others begged me for access.  It became a nice sideline and paid for itself in short order.

Our grade 10 computer teacher was a young guy who got the job because he was the only one who could maintain the card reader without it jamming up all the time, he didn’t actually know much about coding (and why would he, he only had a card reader to figure it out on).  I did well in grade 10 intro to computers but was really excited to get into senior computer science.  The astronomer dream had been dashed in grade 10 physics when I discovered, to my horror, that physics was really just lots and lots of math, which I found tedious and unimaginative.  Anything that had only one way to a single solution seemed mind numbingly dull.  I was still hoping to find my niche in computer science though.

Finally able to get onto the senior computer science lab (first gen IBM x86s!), I was stunned to learn that our computer science teacher wanted us to program… math. I found the assignments linear and the teacher, who already knew the mathletes in the class, didn’t have time for anyone else or anything other than mathematical certainty in coding; the opposite of my experimental, hacking approach to programming.  Five years of passionate self-driven learning dissipated in a cloud of frustration and disinterest over that semester.

My parents went to the teacher conference confused at how a kid who spent hours and hours of his free time coding could be such an epic failure in this class.  My weakness in maths was sighted as the problem.  I’d signed up for the grade 12 class in semester two, but withdrew immediately when it started.  The teacher seemed surprised that I’d signed up for consecutive semesters of comp-sci.  I was surprised that he remembered my name.  And so ended my love affair with coding computers.

Of course I maintained an interest in computers, mainly around gaming and hardware, and eventually went on to get some I.T. certifications and even worked in software implementation in a few places, but getting knocked out of the holy grail of computing, the place where you author how a machine thinks, put the idea of working fully in the field beyond reach, and created a sense of self doubt that a teen is only too willing to embrace.

I’m getting computer certified this summer as a teacher.  When I walk into that class in the fall I’m hoping that I can support as many different approaches to coding as there are students in the room.  The last thing I want to do is knock a keen, self directed learner out of a woefully underdeveloped field of study in secondary schools.

Motorcycle Book Review: The Rudge Book Of The Road

I was reading Classic Bike Magazine last month and one of the auctioneers in the back of the mag suggested getting my hands on a copy of The Rudge Book Of The Road if you are looking for an historical read that’ll get you through a long winter and prime you for the coming springtime.

I had a look around and finally found a 1926 version of the book on Amazon for about thirty five bucks.

If you have a thing for art deco drawings, the Rudge Book of the Road will scratch that itch!

My copy was once owned by.. a W. Chapman?
Reading a book that’s almost 100 years old gives you a perspective on motorcycling that you might not have considered before.  At one point the author talks about how much Rudge has learned from building motor-bikes over the past 17 years.  I found myself becoming conscious decades of development that since went into my current 1971 Triumph Bonneville project and then continued on for decades more as found in my modern Triumph Tiger and Kawasaki Concours.  A bit of historical perspective is a powerful thing when you’re hands on with the engineering found in modern motorbikes.  With nearly a century of continuous development, reading about motorcycling from the dawn of the sport is good mental exercise.

The Rudge Book of the Road takes me back to a time when my grandparents were children and, as a modern reader, I’m left struggling to find a frame of reference in our overcrowded and mechanized world.  There were a quarter as many people on the planet when this book was written and internal combustion engines were in an early phase of rapid development as they revolutionized and democratized travel for more than just the wealthy.  This book makes a point of recognizing this exciting period in history:

Traffic jams and the expectation that everyone be commuting in motor vehicles in an increasingly crowded and polluted world makes this perspective feel particularly alien in 2022.  Can you imagine thinking about motorbike travel like this?  If anyone could do it, it’s motorcyclists – we may be one of the last vehicular subcultures that clings this kind of romance, even as the vast majority drive their appliances without a second thought for how they work or experiencing any inherent joy in the activity.

Having lived with rough ‘colonials’ for most of my life, some of the language in this very British book made me smile.  It was written for Rudge Whitworth as a sales tool but it leans toward the romance of riding as a theme throughout.  Rudge themselves lasted until 1946 before they stopped production, so you’re reading a book by a company that hasn’t existed in over seventy years, which further makes reading this feel like an echo from a distant and unknown past:

The state of the art in terms of motorcycle engineering was making major steps in the 1920s.  Earlier bikes had you oiling the motor as you rode it.  Too much and it would clog the spark plugs and leave you on the side of the road having to clean your plugs, a job most modern vehicle operators would have no idea how to do.  Too little oil and the engine would seize, possibly tossing you down the road.  This degree of involvement in motor vehicle operation was being phased out in the mid-nineteen-twenties bringing more people into the moto-fold.

The idea of sitting down with your new machine and understanding what it needs and how it works is a foreign one in 2022, but Rudge makes this process seem almost meditative.  The idea of lighting your pipe and comprehending your new machine in your shed still appeals to a few of us.  Perhaps this is another of those colonial distinctions.  I have no trouble finding programs on industrial history and engineering when I watch British television, but Canadians seem more focused on resource extraction and office work than they are with understanding how things work and then manufacturing them.  This sort of mechanical sympathy will sound particularly foreign to Canadian ears:

Sit on a can of gasoline and light your pipe!  Those were the days…

This old book doesn’t limit itself to motorcycling mechanics.  If you’ve never camped before they offer advice for those new to sleeping on the ground.  Rudge made sidecar outfits and even a trailer/caravan for people interested in taking everything with them.

When your trusty leather bound Rudge Book of the Road isn’t teaching you how to moto-camp, it’s explaining how the roads you’re riding on might be built on top of old Roman roads or how to identify the architecture of the historical buildings you’re touring past.  This makes me wonder whether Rudge’s target audience was perhaps a bit more educated than your typical rider, but it also makes me wonder if maybe people were just a bit smarter back then without a phone to immerse them in social media in all the time.

The book doesn’t stop at camping or architecture and goes on to teach you how to forecast the weather, tell direction and even tells you where the biggest hills on the island are so you know what gear to tackle them with.  It then provides charts on when the sun rises and sets so you know when to turn on your new-fangled electrical light.  Rudges were one of the first to go electric.  A few years earlier you were lighting a gas powered lamp on your motor-bike before proceeding into the dusk on mostly unfinished roads (while remembering to give the top and some oil).  There are (many?) riders now who have never turned a wrench or put a wheel off pavement.

You’ll learn more from doing things than you will from “all the books or professors in the world”.  Something we’ve forgotten in our screen-fueled information revolution?

There is another chapter written by F.A. Longman, Rudge’s rider in the 1927 Isle of Man TT road race.  He writes with a racer’s urgency and puts you in the rider’s seat as he talks you around the T.T. mountain course while it was still young and relatively new.  It’s amazing how little has changed in the racer’s mindset even while they’re using machines that have only just recently become mechanically self contained.  They were seeing huge leaps in speed as technology improved and riders came to terms with what this new technology was capable of.

After teasing you with the Isle of Man TT, the RBotR then gives you some 1920s style advice on how to get ready to compete in trials and perhaps even go road racing with your motorbike:

Civilisation continues to makes fools of us all in 2022…

Give up the cigarettes and alcohol entirely, but do keep the pipe smoking!  Can you imagine modern, liability-driven manufacturers encouraging riders to do this sort of thing on their new motorbike?  It’s difficult not to get swept up in the enthusiasm and possibility of riding at a time when it was still new to so many people, including the people who built the things!  The lack of caution is exhilarating.

The book ends with a complete set of colour maps of the United Kingdom, but not before it talks you through buying your Rudge (this is a marketing piece, remember?).  Your fifty pounds (about $1350CAD in today’s dollars) gets you the base model of the Rudge Four – for ten pounds more you can get the sport model.  New bikes were much more accessible back in the day! 

The final gift this old book gives you is a list of future readings if you’re interested in motorcycles and travelling on them:

Unknown Norfolk is on my shortlist.  I wonder how many places I’ll recognize from growing up there fifty years later.

The Rudge Book of the Road was such an interesting read that I’m going to keep digging for some of these other historical moto-reading options.  The RbotR suggests slipping one of these in your (tweed?) jacket pocket to read when you get to your destination and finally put your feet up – with your pipe, of course – after another exhilarating day of riding in the dawn of motorcycling.

A more modern motorcyclist philosopher, Matt Crawford, described riding as “a beautiful war“, the Rudge Book of the Road shows that it has always been thus.  If you ride, you’ll find this a familiar and enjoyable refrain.

No rear suspension other than springs on the seat and a tank that hangs under the frame: state of the art motorcycle engineering in 1927 seems archaic but these machines were a huge step forward in dependability and hint at the evolution motorcycles would take.
Art deco inside cover wallpaper!

Riding in the dawn of motorcycling…

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How to take striking 360 photos while riding a motorbike

I’ve been asked how I manage to get on-motorcycle photos while riding, it isn’t with a drone!  Here’s a quick how-to on taking striking action shots while you ride using a 360 camera attached to your bike using a flexible tripod.  There are links at the bottom to other examples of on-bike 360 imaging.

You need a camera with a very wide angle of view.  My preference is for a full 360 degree camera as this also lets you form your images into ‘tiny-planet‘ photos, which are a unique, relatively new way to compose a photograph.  As part of my job I’ve tried many different 360° cameras, but my favourite for on-bike shots is the Ricoh Theta.  It has bright, clear LEDs to let you know what it’s doing and is easy to operate (even when wearing motorcycle gloves) physical controls.  It’ll let you preset things on a smartphone if you want, but it works just as well firing the shutter button for video or photo.

Other 360° cameras I’ve tried have you faffing around with smartphone based controls which don’t work with gloves on.  I’ve also had problems, especially with Samsung’s Gear360, rendering images out of that camera in the provided software.  The Ricoh software offers settings I value like interval photography and the software has never had a problem rendering quickly.  All the 360° cameras I’ve tried have surprisingly good light retention and clarity of image for fixed lens cameras.

You might be able to get away with a 180° camera or something like a go-pro with fish-eye lens, but the 360° camera guarantees you catch everything because it catches everything with no need to aim and focus.

I started doing on bike photos by firing the shutter using the big button on the Theta.  This produced some good on-bike shots, but you always end up with an arm in the photo holding the camera, and you look like you’re not focused purely on riding because you’re not.

There are some benefits to firing the shutter manually.  You can time it to catch something interesting.  You don’t have to focus or aim at anything because the camera catches it all in focus.  You can make some interesting angles holding it low over the pavement, overhead or anywhere else you’re flexible enough to reach.  Even with all that though, you’ve still got an arm in every shot, unless you’re really cunning with the cropping in post processing.



Last summer I was testing a self levelling gimbal for 360° video and made a video under the most challenging circumstances I could devise (riding a motorbike):

The gimbal did a good job of levelling things when the bike went around corners and I liked the focused-on-riding look of the shots.  This experiment got me thinking about a way of fixing a camera to the bike that would match angles with the bike when it leaned over in a corner.  I also wanted something that didn’t involve a camera right in front of me while I was riding.

I finally settled on a gorilla-pod type flexible tripod.  If your bike has raised rear view mirrors they make the perfect mounting point for the camera.  If you wrap the tripod around the wing mirror with some care, you can still use the mirror effectively.  Flexible tripods have good stretch, so I’d recommend wrapping one of the arms right around the mirror arm to ensure it stays attached even if it comes loose.  I pre-set the camera to take a photo on interval mode every 5-10 seconds and then forget about it.  When I get back I look through the photos for interesting shots and then pull them into the 360 software which takes the raw image data and lets you move around within the photo to frame the part you’re looking for.  The shots you end up getting look like they were taken from a drone flying along next to you:

You can play with the geometry of 360 photos and video in a number of interesting ways.  One of the most popular is the little planet shot where the image is distorted to make the ground a circle in the centre of the photo.  The Theta software does this if you put your photos onto the theta360 website with the click of a button.  Here are some ‘tiny planet’ images:

It’s digital photography, so don’t be tentative.  Try different things, fire a lot of shots and keep the good stuff.  With a bit of practice you’ll be producing amazing looking on-bike shots that’ll have people asking you, ‘how’d you do that?’

Here are the bullet points in case you’re a millennial that doesn’t read long form text:


  • Get yourself a quality Gorilla Pod type tripod.  I use this one I got from Amazon, but I’d suggest  going up market a bit – this thing is a plastic piece of crap.
  • Wrap it around one of your rear view mirrors.
  • I loop one tripod leg right around the mirror arm, so there is no chance of losing the camera (I learned that the hard way).
  • I prefer the Ricoh Theta because:
    • it has physical buttons that are easily usable even with gloves on
    • it has clearly visible LEDs and modes
    • the Theta has superior software for video and photo editing, including built in tiny planet settings and it never crashes or renders pixelated (like Samsung software)
    • it’s aerodynamic and much lighter than alternatives
  • Set the camera to video or interval photo-shooting, start it up and forget about it
  • When you get back download the videos or photos and check out what you caught
  • When you use the software you can look around within each photo and video and compose photos and video based on the bit you want to see

Here are some other links to 360 media making:

When you’re collecting many photos on auto shutter it’s relatively easy to combine them all together into a stop motion video.
Links to other 360 motorcycle photo examples:

Some other variations with camera location on the bike:

Mounted on the riser on the windshield so you get an off the front view.
360 shots make for good imaging backgrounds in posters and online content.  Mechanical Sympathy is my homepage…

Rear camera mounting positions…

On the pillion footpeg mount on the Fireblade
Playing with geometry and distortion in the Ricoh 360 software
Mounted on the rear pillion frame on the Triumph Tiger…
A more extreme rear camera mounting position can be found here:  https://kingfisherimaging.blogspot.com/2018/10/variations-in-on-motorcycle-360.html
A primer on how to use automation in Adobe Photoshop and Premier Pro to create a little planet stop motion video from 360 photos:  https://kingfisherimaging.blogspot.com/2020/03/its-editing-all-way-down-creating-360.html
Getting a grip on running scripts in Photoshop lets you automatically generate hundreds of tiny planet images that can then be dropped into a stop motion video.
Another crack at it using photos taken from a summer 2020 ride through the Haliburton Highlands in Central Ontario.
2020 360 on-bike photography album:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/7NWTV4nfpYS7Uy7i6

1971 Triumph Bonneville Project: Engine Out

The weather’s all over the place at the beginning of March this year.  Last weekend I had both road-ready bikes out for a shakedown, this weekend we’re skiing in -20°C windchill; that’s the road I was riding on last week.

As GP from Hammy Hamster would say, ‘the elephants are against us.’  With the outside trying to kill us again, I’m focusing on doing a complete tear down of the 1971 Triumph Bonneville project.  I was originally going to see if I could get the bike in motion as it is, but a combination of factors including 1971 Triumph build quality and the early 80s muppet who tried and failed to turn the bike into a chopper’s spannering skills have me now approaching this as a frame up restoration.

I’ve been working around the edges which has been good for reconnaissance in determining what state the bike is in, but now that I’m committed to doing the bike from the frame up the first job was to remove the bottom end of the motor and clear the way for a frame restoration:

The bottom end was surprisingly light and easy to lift out of the frame and none of the frame to engine bolts caused any problems.  Some were quite loose, so a frame up resto is making more and more sense as I don’t trust anything the chopper muppet did to the bike circa 1983.

It was my first time into the rear drums and, like the fronts, they were age seized but otherwise not in terrible shape, though whenever I get into the dark places on this bike it looks like a scene out of Indiana Jones.

I’ve left the frame on the bench as I continue to strip it of accessories.  The last time I did some coating work on a project bike it was with Fireball Coatings in Elora but seven years on they seem to have evaporated.  I’ve been looking for alternate (and hopefully better) options and KC Coatings in Guelph looks promising.  I intend to get in touch with them and see if we can shot blast and powder coat the Bonneville frame, I just have to make sure they can do it on a complicated oil-in-frame design like this one.  Powder coating adds thickness and can cause problems with fasteners and fitting things back together so I need to find out if KC understands that and can can work with this one so that its mechanical pieces will still fit back together.

Following the frame I’ll sort out both wheels (bearings, tires and inner tubes) before getting the rolling chassis back together and then rebuilding the motor with my swish new 750cc head.

Motor out and on a pop up workbench by the window.  It’s lighter than it looks.

I set up the Black & Decker WorkMate by the back door to the garage to give me somewhere to work on the bottom end of the motor.  With the engine split and out of the frame, I can lift the parts off the bike around easily.  I might put the bench away and make some space while the project is in pieces.

Resources & Links

Power-coating Specialist in Guelph for the frame:


Where to find tires:


Revco is fantastic at shipping (even during a pandemic) and very transparent and communicative with delivery times.  Everything I’ve gotten from them has been expertly packed, is new stock (no old/new tires).  They know what they’re doing with motorsport tires.

How to DIY your own fender: 


If I had more space I’d have welding kit and an English Wheel set up in the workshop and get into a lot more fabrication.  I’d go digital too.  A industrial sized 3d printer would make me dangerous:  https://tkmotorcyclediaries.blogspot.com/2015/11/iihtm-digital-workshop.html

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