The Smoke and Mirrors of EVs and Electronics Integration in Modern Cars

I’m a couple of weeks into a trip around the Iberian Peninsula with my family. I’d been hoping for a car we can’t get in Canada, but ended up with a Kia but it’s a Kia you evidently can’t get in Canada. This is a Kia Xceed:

We ended up with it because we were driving from Madrid, across Spain and into Portugal, and Lisbon has a low emissions zone where only electric and hybrid electric vehicles can go. Before we left Madrid airport the guy at the rental desk encouraged us to charge it up and use the battery to save gas – but they didn’t include the charging cord with the car, and so began a long series of frustrations with our first hybrid electric driving experience.

We figured we’d just charge at a station but stations don’t provide charging cables, they come with the car (unless they don’t). On top of that, it turns out that the charging cables aren’t standardized, and vary from region to region (I imagine because electricity itself isn’t standardized worldwide); the stupid plug stack I packed to keep our devices charged is testament to that.

Imagine if you had to bring your own gasoline hose with you everywhere you went. Imagine if different cars had different sizes and shapes of holes for you to put gas in, so your car only worked at certain gas stations. We’re a number of years into this ‘electric revolution’ in vehicles. I’ve never been able to afford being early-adopter green, but a lot of wealthy people enjoy the glow of showing everyone they care about the planet (I just keep old, efficient, high mileage vehicles in good repair and on the road, saving all those greenhouse emissions from having to manufacture something new every few years).

I thought the ‘EV Revolution’ would be further down the tracks with standardized ports and cars that actually came with the gear needed to make them work. Many manufacturers are making marketing noises about being entirely electric in the next decade, but after our experiences in Spain and Portugal, I can’t see how this is anything more than marketing. William Gibson’s observation about the future being here, but not evenly distributed rings especially true in the EV shell game.

Not that it mattered because we couldn’t use them anyway, but I recently read that many EV chargers are in disrepair. The reason why again emphasizes green marketing designed to ease climate anxiety rather than recognizing the hard work of changing how we move ourselves around. Many chargers are out of commission because the money to install them was provided, but the money to maintain them was not. Details like this make it difficult to believe the hype, though if it makes you feel high and mighty, I guess it has achieved its true aim.

The appearance of green is more important that the truth of it. We get given an HEV to get into Lisbon’s low emissions zone, but without the charging cable we’re a gasoline powered car carrying hundreds of kilos of battery and an entire secondary drivetrain, all of which reduces the gas efficiency of the vehicle, but we can drive into Lisbon because we have an HEV badge on the the thing; more smoke and mirrors.

We’ve driven over 2000kms in the KIA. It’s the first KIA I’ve driven that has seats that fit me (nice sports seats no less). Like most modern cars, the electronics integrations are nice, but I have concerns about the privacy and cybersecurity of it all. When we got into the car it had a list of all the people who had driven it previously which included their personal device information including their phone name, type, bluetooth details and even what they’d been listening to. I deleted it all and we’ll clean the KIA before we hand it back, but most people don’t.

On the Redcar ride to the airport for this trip the driver was telling us about how there has been a rash of vehicle thefts powered by electronic hacks rather than good old fashioned grand theft auto. If you own a new truck in my neighbourhood, you better be crafty about how and where you store your keys. The guy delivering fliers to your house may be sniffing around to clone your convenient electronic key. Still digging that electronic convenience? Turns out we are behind in vehicle cybersecurity in Canada (and worldwide). My day job is developing cybersecurity education, so I’m not remotely surprised by this. Everyone lives their lives on networked devices but almost everyone is oblivious to how this technology works and how it can be exploited (except for criminals).

One of our last stays has Tesla charging stations at the building, so we’re finally charging the HEV. I’m curious to see what having it charged does to mileage, but I still feel like hauling all that extra weight around is a step backwards. My Mazda back home isn’t HEV, but is lightweight and efficient (getting almost 10 miles per gallon better than the Kia), but it isn’t allowed in a low emissions zone. It’s also over a decade old and ready to do another decade of high efficiency service. That approach is greener, but it doesn’t sell new cars to rich anxious people.

I haven’t gotten into the nasty and exploitive world of lithium battery mining and production in this, but I should have. I’m a big fan of going green in a real way. I suspect that hydrogen fuel cells will offer a solution to burning fossil fuels that the messy world of hybrid and medieval battery technology EVs can’t, but we’re still some way away from creating anything like the infrastructure needed to leverage the most abundant substance in the universe to power our transportation needs.

I also haven’t gotten into the all the data collection around charging systems in Spain and Portugal. If you drive electric you’ll be pumping personal data (including when you’re not home) into online databases from multiple companies. Those online databases are what criminals access to steal personal information, often to sell to other criminals. It’s a worldwide problem and having signed up for multiple ‘apps’, my exposure to potential hacks has increased dramatically – even though none of them actually charged the damned car (which is also collecting my data).

Maybe the fully charged KIA will change my mind today, but I doubt it. The inherent inefficiencies around lugging along spare powertrains and batteries aren’t the solution they’re being made out to be. The hidden dangers to my privacy are the forgotten side of this convenience and green marketing. The real answers aren’t going to be solved by marketing snowjobs that ignore nasty truths about our still terrible chemical battery technologies and vehicle cybersecurity. Hopefully next time I rent a ‘green’ car, it’ll actually be green, and secure.

What moving off burning hydrocarbons might really look:

Cybersecurity in cars (should also include privacy and security around charging!):

Some other observations from driving in Spain and Portugal…

Now that’s efficiency! Over ten times the mileage of your typical HEV… and it looks fabulous!

Parking in Portugal is an art – this guy stuffed his Range Rover into a wall (cars can just squeeze by).

We off-roaded around a cork farm in torrential rain in this 40 year old Landie. With 6 people on board it was incredibly effective (like a mountain goat!), navigating flooded mud roads and hills.

Joanna, our guide, handled the Landie like a pro:  Highly recommended!

The roads in Portugal are spectacular – but I had two too many wheels (and drivetrains, and fuel systems) to truly enjoy them. Though this was still (by far) the best KIA I’ve driven so far.

Lisboa is a city of bikes…

One of the first cars I ever rode in was my Nana’s Isetta Bubble Car – they had one just like it in the MHAS in Salamanca

They has Schumie’s Benetton F1 car in there too!

Best KIA so far…

The efficiency you get from toll roading all of your major highways in Portugal. The only place we’ve slowed down for traffic (hugely inefficient and anti-green, no matter what you drive!) was in Lisbon, and even there the rush hours were like a love tap compared to the daily abuse Torontonians face.

Now that’s my kind of sustainability! A nearly 30 year old Honda Africa Twin that gets almost 50mpg looking fabulous at the beach in Lagos. When it only rains a few days a year, the Algarve is the perfect place to ride year round… and the roads are spectacular

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One Man Caravan: Motorcycle Travel History

You can pick up a reprinted copy of One Man Caravan on Amazon for about sixty bucks, but I did a bit better. For ten bucks I discovered an original 1936 edition in a used book jumble when we went to Pelee Island over Canadian Thanksgiving. The spine is cracked and the pages are stained with almost a century of smoke, coffee and whiskey – intrigued yet?

When you take on a read like this it drags you out of your own context and into a world substantially different from the one we live in, Many people have trouble navigating this time culture shift (they like to bring their current values and fixations with them – it’s a kind of temporal colonialism), but not me, I like the dissonance.

One Man Caravan is the story of Robert Fulton, an American student living in Europe who shoots his mouth off at a dinner party, saying he’s planning to ride a motorbike around the world. (Un?) Fortunately for Robert, one of the people at the party owned the Douglas Motorcycle Factory and offered him a free bike to do it on. It reminded me of Charley Boorman shooting his mouth off about doing the Dakar… and then having to do it.

Another familiarity with moto-travel history is similarities to Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels. Fullerton describes his decision to go with a motorbike: “I had considered the matter from various angles, only to arrive at the conclusion that there must be some better method of seeing that world than by the standard processes. On foot and carrying a knapsack? That would be too slow. By motor car? Too expensive. A bicycle? Too much work. A motorcycle?”  Simon says something similar in Jupiter’s Travels when he talks about what it takes to ride around the world.

The world Fullerton navigates feels like another planet to most modern readers. No digital anything, nothing like today’s transport infrastructure, and industry has yet to force everyone into similar lifestyles. We often forget how much industry defines our lives, but Fullerton comes face to face with that in 1932. The other oddity for the modern reader is just how different the immutable facts of life (like countries) change over time. The world was a very different place in 1932…

The emerging chancellor in Germany was taking it into the future (Fullerton talks about how well ordered and future facing Germany is – unnerving, right?) ! I had to look up Waziristan (modern day Pakistan).

Robert blitzes across continental Europe before pressing on into Greece and finding his way to the ‘edge of civilization’ in Turkey.

You’ll come across a very colonial view of the world because that’s how it operated in 1932, but if you can get past your temporal prejudices, this old book does a fantastic job of bringing that lost world to life. Robert finds himself in kinship with Bedouin camel train drivers who live their lives on the road (at least when he isn’t being thrown in jail – the preferred way to house an itinerant motorcyclist passing through in the 1930s). He has frequent altercations with local law enforcement and the various ‘agents of empire’ he comes across, though his American citizenship gives him a useful separation (and a healthy irreverence) for those government interests.

Like many around-the-world stories, the trip itself changes Robert as he travels. His early, furtive forays in Europe are accompanied by a rueful, self-mocking tone, but once he gets into the grind, especially as he’s navigating Middle Eastern deserts without roads or even a clear idea of where he’s going, you start to get a  sense of how much of a grafter this guy is – he certainly isn’t afraid of hard work.

By the time Robert has navigated to India he is in the zone, pushing on into Afghanistan even though every possible barrier is thrown up against him. It’s in these places beyond the comforts of civilization where his fixation on trying to capture these disappearing cultures really comes into focus. Robert is very aware of how the industrial revolution is shrinking the world and remaking it in a single image. His observations about being offered tiger cubs for two dollars in Indo-China (a motorbike isn’t the best place for a tiger cub) speak to the process of ‘civilizing’ these places.

Another quality that comes across as Robert’s confidence (and writing voice) improve is his sense of humour. He starts off having a healthy respect for the status quo, but by the time he is navigating his way out of China to Singapore with no money, he is fast and loose with how things should work and much more likely to absorb the lessons the road is delivering to him.

His description of how the Chinese measure distance (in terms of ease of travel vs. distance) is particularly funny and insightful and shows you how far he’d come in terms of simply listening to the world rather than judging it:

“…the Chinese method possesses one distinct advantage over all others. It does not deal in distances but rather in ‘going conditions.’ For example the distance from Kaifeng to Tungkwan might be two hundred li, while from Tungkwan to Kaifeng measures only a hundred and fifty. The reason? Simple enough. It’s down-hill coming back.”

If you want a feeling of this lost world buried in the history of the past 90 years, the photos in the book will take you there…
Riding the streets of Shanghai in 1932…

Robert’s mechanical inclinations kept him in motion (he went on to invent the skyhook system you see in James Bond and Batman films!)

In Saigon, the ‘Little Paris of the East’

Whether you’re a motorcyclist, a historian or a lover of travel, finding a copy of One Man Caravan is a wonderful opportunity. If you can find a survivor like I did for a song, then good for you. Right now, the only hard cover original edition available is going for $934USD (eek!).

The best follow-on is that all that film that Robert lugged around the world (and got into all sorts of trouble trying to develop along they way) is out there somewhere as Twice Upon a Caravan. I’ll have to do some digging to see if I can find the complete package, it’d be something to see.

The fascinating life of Robert Fullerton:

from Blogger

The Week That Usually Isn’t: Riding in November in Canada

We don’t usually get a lot of two wheel time in November.  We often get years where the snows start at Hallowe’en and don’t let go, but not this year.  Temps in the teens had me out exercising both bikes with their new winter-oil change in before they hibernate.

Photos taken with a Theta 360 camera on a flexible tripod attached to various parts of the bke.

Once the snows fall and the long wait starts, the Bonneville project calls…

from Blogger

More Motorcycle Photography from the end of the season…

Winter’s never an easy season for a motorcyclist, and even less so in Canada where riding in it is a near impossibility.  Soon enough we’ll be buried in snow and minus double digit temperatures, but I’m not feeling the weight of it like I normally do.  A positive change in my working life, an old-bike project in the workshop and a good year of riding have me in a positive place as this riding season draws to a close.  I saw a bit of prose by Milne recently that hit the target:

“Yes, I can face the winter with calm.
I suppose I had forgotten what it was really like
I had been thinking of the winter as a horrid wet, dreary time.
Now I can see other things—crisp and sparkling days, long pleasant evenings, cheery fires.
Good work shall be done this winter.
Life shall be lived well.
The end of the summer is not the end of the world.”

A.A. Milne

I got a lot of miles in on both bikes this year, but the Tiger takes it for a couple of reasons.  FIrst of all, after some satisfying maintenance over the winter, it’s better than it’s ever been with new sprockets getting me close to 60mpg and the ultrasonically cleaned fuel injectors that have completely resolved the stalling issues from last year.  When the Concours got a flat just before the biggest ride of the summer, the Tiger stepped up and took on that cross province trip without missing a beat.  Love that bike!

This is why the Tiger still adorns the header on the blog even though several bikes have come and gone in the meantime.

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CyberDay and CyberTitan: Cyber isn’t as difficult as you think it is…

The idea of bringing cybersecurity awareness into a public school classroom makes many people uneasy, but as I said in a recent interview, “Cyber is never as complicated as you think it is, don’t let the lingo and media scare you off.”   There are a couple of events happening in October, which is cybersecurity awareness month in Canada, that’ll give you the resources and connections you need to explore cybersafety in your classroom.

CyberDay is the gentle introduction to cybersafety, privacy and cybersecurity.  

It’s happening on October 18th and the Knowledgeflow Cybersafety Foundation has been working like beavers to put together interactive resources and talks with experts that’ll make cyber accessible to everyone.
CyberDay is all online and you can pick and choose what you want to use in your classroom.  It could be a short lesson, a longer activity or even a whole day event depending on how you want to use it.
Sign up is on the site and you can even do some preliminary learning with it by having students submit questions to experts.  If you don’t think you have students in your class who are curious about hacking then you’re not getting where they spend most of their time (it’s online).  In this event students can ask white hat hackers and pentesters about their work.  That might lead more students to consider cybersecurity pathways which are in such short demand that Canada is looking overseas to bring people in because we’re not producing these careers at home.

As they say on the site, “Cybersafety is a team sport”.  You’re not alone in broaching this sometimes unnerving subject, you only need to connect to CyberDay to see how much help is on hand.

In case the ease of access isn’t compelling for you, perhaps the idea that if we’re going to use interconnecting education technology in our classroom, we should be covering best practices with our students will.  I attended a conference last week where Michael Canuel from LearnQC trotted out some current stats that should make you sit up and take notice:
  • (a staggering) 98% of data breaches are caused by user error or cyber-illiteracy. If we took steps to improve cybersafety awareness in education, we would all but solve the current wave of cyber-attacks on the education sector.

  • cyber-awareness is vital to protecting our critical infrastructure. Canada now considers information technology to be a critical infrastructure (because it also runs all the other ones)
  • cyber-skills are part of a collection of digital literacy skills that extend well beyond coding
The need for better cyber-awareness should be self evident, but what isn’t (to me) is why public education seems to go out of its way to ignore it.  While listening to Michael’s talk about the poor state of cyber-skills in Canadian education, I couldn’t help wondering if it isn’t intentional.  Many public education organizations have vested political interests in keeping the status quo.  From a professional perspective I was left desperately hoping that educators aren’t intentionally ignoring privacy and cybersafety skills in order to sabotage eLearning.  CyberDay would be a great first step in proving that skepticism misplaced.

One of the angles I was considering for CyberDay was just how well suited it is as a library activity.  I did a piece for the Ontario Library Association’s Teaching LIbrarian online magazine about how cybersecurity (as a digital literacy) makes a perfect connection with the roll a modern learning commons has in our schools.

Library learning commons are often the first point of contact for emerging technology.  Way back in middle school in 1982, I first laid hands on a computer in our school library when we set up Commodore PETs and saw the neon green wonder of coding for the first time.
I’m hoping I can connect with the OSLA about reaching out to librarians over the next couple of weeks in order to empower them to take on this latest in a long line of emerging digital literacies.  Cyber isn’t as scary as you think, and it’s a great opportunity for iterative and immersive learning.

CYBERTITAN:  Canada’s student cybersecurity competition

CyberTitan has been running since 2017/18 in Canada as part of CyberPatriot, the US Air Force Association’s now international student competition.  If you’re read Dusty World before you know that this contest has not only opened up pathways for my students, but also played a major role in my own professional development.  I’m a huge fan of the competition and would love to see more Canadian educators get on board with it.
CyberPatriot has a live map of registered teams on their site.  As you can see, compared to the United States, Canada’s engagement with the competition has been… less.  I’m particularly focused on connecting under-represented groups in the competition.  When I coached the first ever top all-female team to the national finals in 2019, I became aware of just how toxically masculine cyber can be.  I’d move mountains to get more female (including non-binary and female identifying) students into it.  I’d move more mountains to get BIPOC and indigenous students on board too.  The finalist teams all tend to come from major cities and specialist schools which tend to cater to socio-economically advantaged youth.  Cyber isn’t an urban/wealthy issue, it’s an all-of-us issue, and rural communities, families and businesses are just as in need of safe and secure connectivity as everyone else.
You can see what the competition is about from this Prezi that the mighty @oksarge and I presented at ECOO summer camp in 2020.  Students learn hands-on defensive IT skills by fixing compromised WIndows and Linux operating systems in virtual machines.
Learning to wrangle virtual machines is a big part of CyberPatriot.  You’ll find this technology to be an incredible tool for teaching computer technology. You can abuse VMs in all sorts of ways that’d make your IT department faint, and when it all goes wrong?  Just close the window.

VMs are simulated computers that happen inside a window, so you could run Apple OSx in Windows, or Windows in Linux using a VM.  Because it’s all virtual there is no chance of spreading malware from inside a VM, which is why they’re used in cybersecurity.  Learning virtualization technology like this is really eye opening for students, and it’s not nearly as tricky as you think it might be.
Our lab goes full disco during a CyberPatriot round.  It’s a six-hour competition window.  Pizza is brought in and snacks are available.  Students dig right to the end, making a mockery of the idea that kids today have no attention span.
The competition is exciting and students genuinely enjoy it and return year after year.  Live world wide scoring pits them against students from around the world, so if they’re competitive they can follow the scoreboard and dig for points, but CyberPatriot can also be played from a purely educational perspective where students still benefit from the teamwork, iterative problem solving and cyber-skills development.  Our junior teams are always reminded that this is a reconnaissance season with no expectation of winning.  Learn the ropes and get into it.  Many become competitive anyway because (here it comes again): cyber isn’t as complicated as you think it is.
Sign up is due by October 5th, but no money is due then (fees are waived for non-male teams) and I’ve always found that SHSM and other student success initiatives are eager to help cover costs (which aren’t due until mid-November).  The swag is excellent (t-shirts, medals!) and once students understand how it all works they always say the same thing (here it comes again), “it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”  That’s cybersecurity in a nutshell.
Libraries would be another great focus for CyberTitan, where students could access the technology they need and develop their library and librarian coach into a cyber-aware school-wide resource.  My students have used the skills learned in CyberPatriot to help our school with technical support and many went on to support local businesses as well.  The benefits from this are many, we just need to get more Canadian educators to take that step and sign up a team. Once they do, they’ll be back!
It’s still true!  If you’d like to talk about running a high school team, I’ve got lots of experience and would be thrilled to help you get going.  Krista ran a very successful middle-school team in her first year coaching and can talk you through what to expect in that division.

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Moto-Media and Getting in Rides at the end of summer, 2022

Evening rides and changeable weather as the summer ends…

The Concours/1400GTR hanging out in a graveyard at sunset… as you do.


I’ve been playing with some design concepts for the WW2 historical fiction novel, Under Dark Skies (coming soon!).  I’m currently working on dividing the original manuscript into three young adult sized novels.  

I’m always looking for period bike images.  Never know when I might be able to use them for a reference on an original drawing.  I’ve been up to those too, creating scenes from the novel:

t-shirt transparency

Sketched variation –  I might have put my face on that subconsciously.

… and some sketched (pen and ink) scenes from the novel:

Here’s a mock-up book cover concept based on a 1940s comic book style:

I’ve been monkeying around with the blog logo too:


… and may eventually put a t-shirt out:


We managed an afternoon at SMART Adventures before the end of the summer:

It’s never a bad time, but I went in the ‘expert’ group which consisted of a dad who wanted his son on a bike that was too big for him.  The kid came off it so often that it became tedious, so we rode back to base and he switched to a smaller bike and then fell off that a lot too.  We still got some good trail riding in and our instructor (Louise) was fantastic, but ‘expert’?  Not so much.  We spent a sizable portion of our very short 3 hours picking this kid up or riding back and forth for his various equipment change needs.  His finally move was to ride into a massive puddle and drop the bike in the middle of it, causing us to spent 20 minutes getting it out and then following him and his dad as they two-upped back to the office.

I’m not sure how to address that as I’ve been going to SMART for a long time and I did have a good afternoon, but when I’m paying quite a lot of money for three hours of riding and almost a third of it is taken up with catering to what was clearly a non-expert rider, I’m left feeling (for the first time ) like I didn’t get my money’s worth.


We went to Stratford yesterday to Perth County Moto’s 5th anniversary.  T’was a good time.  If you find your way to Stratford, Ontario at any point, look them up, they’re right downtown: 

I got myself a vintage style dirt tracker team sweater (they’re like rugby jerseys) for a good price!

I haven’t been spending much time in the garage beyond upkeep and maintenance on the two operational bikes.  I’m saving the Bonneville project for the cold months when I need to keep my hands busy and riding is far away, though I did start re-assembling the frame (seemed like a logical place to start).

The oil filters came in for the end of year oil change (I always put in fresh oil and filter and run them through before the big hibernation).  It’s a depressing delivery, but I’ve still got another six weeks or so before the snows fall.  With the filters I got some tank pads to stop myself sliding around on the Concours.

Next week we’re aiming for the Wine y Cheese Rally on September 24th.  We’re going to head down to St. Catherines on the Friday and then be up and at it by 7am on Saturday morning.  This is the only rally we’ve been able to line up this busy summer, so I’m looking forward to it.  We’ve been fettling the Concours to make it as functional and capable as possible for this long haul.  We finished our last one on the Tiger last summer, so I’m not even super concerned with finishing so much as I am just having a good time with it.  Signups still seem to be available, so if you’re looking for an excuse to ride and ride next weekend (cooler temps but the weather looks good), then give it a go.

Gotta get time in the saddle in before the snows fall!

from Blogger

Baffling 1970s British Wheel Engineering

I had a go at mounting new tires on the 1971 Bonneville project rims today, and what a pain in that ass that has turned into.  The rear tire is a mess of strange engineering decisions, including 3 holes for the inner tube valve, two of which are filled with rubber/metal pads with valve stem sized bolts sticking out of them.  Why they would do this is beyond me.  It creates a needlessly heavy wheel just where you don’t want it (where centrifugal force amplifies it at the rim when it spins).  Perhaps it has something to do with the spokes and creating a true (round) wheel by adding weight?  The rear tire went on easily enough, but the inner tube was a pain to get the valve in place and it doesn’t seem to be taking air.  I’ll have to take that apart again and figure out what the hell is going on.

Also in bizarro British ’70s engineering world, the front wheel has the valve stem hole drilled in the worst possible location, right near two spokes, which makes putting the compressor’s tire inflation nozzle on it impossible.  There are spaces all around the rim where the hole could have been drilled to allow for easier access, but the Meriden Triumph ‘technician’ threw it in there.  If there is an engineering reason for it, it’s beyond me.  Putting the hole in the space between more distant spokes shouldn’t hurt the durability, but they didn’t do that.

I’ve done inner tubes and tires for my modern Triumph Tiger recently, and just did a tubeless tire on the Kawasaki (complete with tire sensor hack), so this shouldn’t have been the faff that it has turned into.  I ended up leaving both rims sitting in the garage.  I’ll come back to it another day when I’m less frustrated by it.

Period tires from Revco look good on the rims, but the rear won’t take air and I can’t get any into the front.  Damn it.

Here’s some old Triumph ‘character’ and a bit of moto philosophy to remind me why I’m doing this…

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Getting a Flat Tire on your Motorcycle

I’ve been riding for over a decade now on a lot of different bikes and I’ve never had a flat tire.  A work colleague got one once and it made her quit riding, so the terror of riding a motorcycle with a flat has always had an inflated (ha!) place in my mind.

Last week my son and I went to look for hairy cows (highland cattle up by Creemore) on two wheels.  The mission was a success and after a quick lunch in Creemore we headed home.  A stop for a stretch in Grand Valley must have picked up a nail as once we were back in motion the tire sensor started flashing on the dash.  It should have been more obvious that a catastrophic tire failure was under way except the Kawasaki was also in a panic about being low on fuel.  Whoever did the dash layout for the C14 didn’t have a good grip on digital ergonomics (a rapid tire decompression shouldn’t be vying with early low-fuel warnings on the screen).

I started to feel the back end get squishy so I slowed down and pulled over once I’d sussed out what the panicky dash was trying to tell me.  With a 200lb+ passenger on the back this was the worst possible getting-a-flat scenario, yet I found it very manageable.  I like to think all that time at SMART Adventures getting used to a bike moving around on loose material helped.  We pulled over, the tire was very flat, so we unloaded and then I pushed the bike off the side of the road and into the grass.  We were on a country road so there wasn’t much of a shoulder and everyone was steaming by at 100kms/hr.  I then got on the phone trying to find anyone local who could give us a hand.

Nice spot for a breakdown, as long as you can manhandle the bike away from the verge. No one stopped to check on us or even slowed down or moved out of the lane to avoid us. Country living ain’t what it used to be.

No point in being all long faced about it 🙂

My wife was heading out to ballet but a friend in town, Scott, was around and offered to come out with some spray filler to get us home.

It was a nice day for a flat in a lovely part of the world.  Potatoes were growing behind us and cows grazed across the road as the sun streamed down.

Scott was there in a flash.  I removed the topbox and Max and it went with Scott in the car (no point in putting more weight on a bad tire than necessary).  The spray filler went in and bubbled out of the hole and the bike’s pressure sensor said I had 5psi.  Perhaps the foam expands as the tire spins and heats up?  Scott and Max followed me as I took it slowly down the road toward the village of Belwood, but the fill-in-foam did bugger all.

I was only a few minutes in motion but the tire pressure fell off to zero again and the tire was starting to come off the bead, so I pulled over on the edge of the road in Belwood.  Scott and Max went back to Elora to see if he could borrow his neighbour’s trailer to get the bike home, but I was in my hood now.  Belwood is the edge of the catchment area where I teach and teaching generations of people here means I’m connected, even when I don’t know it.

The guy mowing his lawn across the street came over and said he had a portable air compressor and some tire plugs and would I want to give it a try?  He came back a minute latter with a rusty old plug kit and the air pump and as he plugged the hole we discovered that he was the uncle of one of my top students (the kid’s going to German to do IT this fall!).  He waved me off when I offered to pay, but a bottle of Glenfiddich is coming his way next time I’m passing through there.  Scotch is cheaper than a tow and I’d like to cultivate what little small town spirit is left in our rapidly urbanizing county.

Plug kits are the way!

The Concours uses tubeless tires on alloy rims, similar to a car, so the plug did the trick and the portable air compressor he had put 20psi into the tire which held all the way home.  I stopped half way and texted Scott that I was in motion and they met me at the house.  I took it slow and steady but the bike felt fine even at half pressure.  If you’re frantically worried about getting a flat on a motorcycle get some off road training, it’ll make you comfortable with the squirming.

Lessons learned?

This wasn’t my first time seeing
biker ‘brotherhood’ fall on its face
It’s all a load of nonsense, isn’t it?
I stop, but it has nothing to do with
this fictional B,S, designed to make
the loud  pipe crowd feel good
about themselves.

  1. Flats feel like riding on gravel.  If that freaks you out, so will getting a flat.
  2. Pressure filler goop doesn’t work, it’s a waste of money.  This was only a nail puncture and it did nothing to solve it.
  3. Plugs are the way!  There are moto-friendly options that aren’t big (or expensive compared to getting towed) and can get you back in motion.
  4. Don’t expect Kawasaki’s tire air pressure system to prioritize the danger in any kind of way that makes sense.
  5. Don’t expect the biker brotherhood (or anyone else) to pull over and see if you need a hand, they all just potatoed by while we were on the side of the road.  In fact, no one stopped to check on us.  How’s that for country hospitality?
  6. Because of 5, be self sufficient in sorting your own flat.

Jeff the motorcycle Jedi suggested getting an all-in-one micro-sized puncture repair kit and suggested the Stop And Go kit which includes all you need for plugging including a mini pump that you can clip onto your battery for under $100.  Packs up nice and small too so throwing it in a pannier is no problem.
I got mine from Fortnine, but Amazon has ’em too.

As for tires, I ended up going with Revco and getting a single new rear tire rather than doing both.  When I got the C14 it had a relatively new (2019) front tire and much older rear on it.  The front was still nicely rounded (no flat spots), so it stayed on.  I didn’t want to mismatch tires so I stayed with Michelin Pilot Road 4s.  If you want a COVID inflationary kick in the head, the rear tire cost $235 when I looked it up last summer.  Your latest inflationary price (Aug, 2022)?  $274.  That’s a 16.6% price jump, aren’t economics fun?  I can’t imagine what the dealership is asking these days, probably five hundred a tire installed.

All that shitty milk in the bottom of the tire? That’s courtesy of the utterly useless ‘tire repair’ foam filler – don’t bother with it!

Revco did its usual excellent job getting the tire out (it was here less than 48hrs after ordering).  Installation was straightforward and gave me a chance to clean up the rear end and shaft drive which I hadn’t been into yet.

Here’s where things get even craftier (or Norfolk stingier if you like).  I like mechanics, but like my dad before me, they also scratch a why-spend-money-when-you-don’t-have-to itch.  The tire pressure warning system has been flashing low power warnings at me since I got the bike.  I looked up replacements and they are an eye-watering three hundred bucks or more a piece, then I did some research and found this handy video where the guy dismantles the sensors and solders a new lithium battery in.  Recommended?  Not unless you’re really handy soldering (lithium batteries don’t like a lot of heat).  Fortunately, I’m handy with soldering.

The TPMS (tire pressure measurement system) is a wireless sensor screwed into the valve stem and held in place with a big hex bolt.  It sends a wireless signal to the dash once the bike is in motion which gives you your tire pressure in real time.  Removing the sensor is easy enough and taking it apart equally so (there is a torx head bolt under the sticker).

Disassembly is straightforward.  There are plastic clips on the sides that can’t have much to do in a thing spinning round and round inside a hot, pressurized tire.  The hidden fastener is a tiny torx head bolt under the sticker.

I removed the old battery and picked up a pack of 4 of the Energizer C2032 batteries (we use them all the time in motherboards at school) for under $10.

I soldered wires onto the extensions from the PCB and then soldered them onto the battery.  Solid connections all around and it all went back together nicely.  For a hack around a non-repairable high-expense replacement, this went well!

The new tire went on without any headaches.  Compared to the winter install of the tubed tires on the Tiger, it was a much easier summer job.  No inner tubes to wrangle and (after leaving the tire in the sun for 10 minutes), everything was pliable and easy to stretch over the rim using tire spoons.

I was worried about the tire not inflating if I didn’t have a tire installer with rapid inflation on it, but I needn’t have worried.  Perhaps the Armour All helped (I used it on the rim edge as a lubricant), but the tire started to take in air with a bit of jiggling and once it started filling, at about 20psi the edges popped out onto the bead and were airtight.

I set the tire pressure to 42psi and went for a ride around the block and then up and down the river (about 20kms).  Everything it tight and working well, including the tire pressure sensor – no more low power warnings!  I’ll do the front one when I eventually replace the front tire the same way.  A new tire always feels fantastic (like a newly sharpened pencil if you’re older enough to know what that feels like) with the bike feeling friskier and more willing to drop into corners.  The new tire is a 190/55 rather than the stock 190/50 and it subtly shifts weight forward by lifting the back end up a touch – it felt good, and is a bit less crashy on bumps too (a bit more sidewall means a bit more flex).

Thanks to Steve A on YouTube for some genuinely useful help researching the tire pressure management system and how to hack a fix.

from Blogger

Nerdy Moto-Trip Planning: Ride to Watch Artemis Launch to the Moon in Florida

I’m facing impending return to a perilous workplace of questionable effectiveness.  Expect to see more pie in the sky posts on TMD as I find ways to escape from a terminal re-entry into another year of politics and frustration at work.

The ride to watch the Artemis moon launch set for Monday, August 29th (at the earliest) at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

What I’d do if I didn’t have to go back to work in the coming weeks and was looking for a way to be busy and gone while the education machine groans back into life again.

Leave Monday, Aug 22nd, take an extra day either around the Dragon’s Tail or in the Appalachians (or in Savannah! …so many choices!).

THE RIDE DOWN (to Florida Aug 22-29):

Day 1:  Elora to Philpsburg PA:  569kms

We Are Inn:

Day 2:  We Are Inn PA to Lydia Mtn Lodge VA 254mi

Lydian Mountain Lodge:  Nice place for a two night stay!

Day 3:  Lydia Mtn Lodge VA to Quality Inn Bristol:  300mi

Blue Ridge Parkway:

Day 4:  Bristol VA to Dragon City & Tail of the Dragon: 246mi

Dragon City:

Day 5:  Dragon City to Savannah GA: 397mi

Day 6:  Savannah GA to Daytona Beach (1 hr north of Cape Canaveral):

Day 7:  Daytona Beach to Cape Canaveral to Boca Raton: 246mi (70mi/1hr to Cape Canaveral): Watch the launch (!!!) then head on down to Miami.

August 22-29th for Aug 29th launch.

POST LAUNCH (Aug 29-last week of September):

Miami & Key West:  Boca Raton to Key West: 207mi

Spend some days in Key West and then work my way up around the Gulf Coast to New Orleans:  ~1000mi

After some days in and around New Orleans, it’d be a slow ride up the Mississippi River Delta with a swing over to The Ozarks before returning to Ontario end of September:  ~2500mi over a couple of weeks.

On the road for approximately 4 weeks (August 22 to September 22ish).  One week down, 3 weeks after launch covering Florida, New Orleans, the Mississippi and the Ozarks back home:

I have just the machine to make this trip on:

from Blogger