Sail Away: First Long Ride on The Kawasaki Concours 14

First long ride with Big Blue/Nami-Chan (not sure what its name is yet) today up to Georgian Bay to listen to the water.  For a kid who grew up by the sea, living in landlocked Southern Ontario wears on me, so sitting by the shore listening to the water lapping on the rocks calms my permanent sense of dislocation.

Thornbury Harbour, Geogian Bay, Ontario – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


What’s the Concours 14 like to ride over distance?  It’s a very comfortable long distance machine. Compared to the Tiger it’s smoother, significantly less vibey and quieter.  This isn’t necessarily a good think because riding a motorbike isn’t always about comfort – sometimes you want it to beat the shit out of you.  What is good is that the 1400GTR is a significantly different bike to ride than the old Triumph Tiger, so both fill a different need in the bike stable.

The Tiger (when it works perfectly which isn’t often recently) is a capable off roader on trails and fire roads and lets the wind pass through you since it’s practically naked, which is both exhausting and exhilarating.  After the long ride today the abilities of the Kawasaki are much more clear.  The only nagging issue is that my backside has gotten used to Corbin seat engineering and the Kawasaki stock saddle just isn’t up to the job, but otherwise the bike is a revelation.  Effortlessly quick, smooth and surprisingly agile in the corners, though you can still feel the weight carries but it carries it low.

Windshield down, lots of airflow, a great view
and the bike feels more likes sports-bike.

For the first time I adjusted the X-screen modular MCA Windshield to its maximum length and it did an astonishing job of protecting me at highway speeds.  So much so that I barely closed the Roof helmet on the ride.  The pocket of air it creates is stable and the wind noise so much less that it’s just another aspect of this bike that’ll let you do long miles without exhausting yourself.

Ergonomically, the windscreen also does something smart for airflow.  If it gets hot you can lower it to the point where it almost vanishes.  This pushes a lot of air through your upper body and supports your chest from leaning on your wrists.  I hadn’t put much stock in an adjustable windshield but it not only changes the look of the bike, it also changes its functionality too.  On long rides changes in airflow keep you comfortable and focused.

Windshield up while you’re making tracks
on less demanding roads and you’re in a
quiet bubble of air that lets you go for miles.

The bike itself seems to manage heat well which the old ZG1000 previous generation Concours 10 I had did not (it used to get stupid hot!).  If stuck in traffic, even over 30°C pavement, the temperature gauge never went above half way and the fans haven’t needed to come on yet.  The lack of wind-flow over my legs on hot summer rides may yet be an issue though, the fairings are too good.

The other complexity piece of the C14 that I wasn’t sure I was interested in was the digital dash but that too is proving valuable.  I’m no longer guessing what gear I’m in based on revs and road speed so I’m no longer trying to shift into a non-existent 7th gear, which happens often on the Tiger.  Though the 1400GTR revs so low while in 6th/overdrive (3200rpm @ 110kms/hr) that you wouldn’t be looking for another gear anyway.
Mileage has been a concern on this smaller-tank/worse mileage than the Tiger bike.  The Kawasaki’s 22 litre tank is 2 litres smaller than the Tiger’s which also gets 10+ more miles to the gallon.  I’m going to fill up a spare 2 litre gas canister and run the Kawasaki for maximum range a few times to see what this C14 can actually do.  When I fill it up it cheerfully states it’ll do 360km to a 22 litre tank which works out to 38.5mpg or 6.1 litres per 100 kms.  The display shows when you’re maximizing mileage so a long ride without wringing its neck to see what mileage it can achieve is in order.  If I can get 400kms out of a tank that’ll put me up into the mid-40s miles per gallon, which would be a good return on such a heavy, powerful machine.  The range indicator jumps around to the point of being meaningless and then cuts out when the bike gets low and you need it most – not the best user interface there, Kawasaki, but I’ve heard there may be a wiring hack to stop that from happening.

So, after a 290ish km run up to Georgian Bay and back I’m very happy with the bike’s power, which is otherworldly, it’s comfort is good but I’m looking at seat improvements.  I’ve heard other larger riders put peg extenders on so there is a bit less flex in the legs, which might eventually happen.  Many people also put bar risers on them so the bars come towards you a bit more, but I’m finding that I’m able to move myself on the seat to get a more vertical or more sporty riding position depending on what I’m doing, so bar risers aren’t on the radar.
I did pick up a spare fuel bottle that fits nicely in the panniers (which take a bit of getting used to for all the keying in and out but are huge and don’t affect the bike at speed at all).  Next time I’m on a long ride I’ll top the spare bottle up when I top up the bike and then see how far I can push the range.

It was an uneventful ride except for one incident.  Leaving Thornbury harbour the 360 camera fell out of my pocket onto the road.  I pulled over quickly and safely and then ran back to scoop it up off the road.  There was traffic back at the lights in town just starting to move and 3 cyclists riding on the side of the road coming towards me but still some way away.  I ran out to the camera, scooped it up and ran back to the curb and almost took out one of the cyclists who had elected to accelerate towards me rather than giving me space to get off the road.
She yelled, “bike!” and I made a dexterity check that had me dodging around her rather than taking her off the bike.  They kept going but I was left standing there wondering what the thinking was.  You see a guy duck out into the road to pick something up so surely you would ease up a bit and let him do what he needs to do to get out of the way – but not in this case.  From what I’ve seen of cyclist’s approach to sharing the road, I imagine that I’m entirely at fault for that.  It left me shaking my head at their thought processes.

from Blogger https://ift.tt/2SzC3EW
via IFTTT

Triumph Tiger 955i Rear Brakes

I came home last weekend to a lot of noise from the rear brakes.  A closer look showed virtually no pad material left, so it was time for new pads.  I thought I had some at the ready, but it turns out they were for the Concours.  A quick online shopping trip to Fortnine got me sorted out.  Surprisingly, the rear pads are the same as the front pads – I think the Tiger is the only bike I’ve owned with the same pads front and back.


Everything went smoothly until I got to the caliper pin – it’s the bar the brake pad hangs on as it it presses into the disk.  The end of the pin was (rather bafflingly) a slot screw, which isn’t a very nice choice for something like a caliper pin which will get hot and cold over and over again for years between service.  Slot screws aren’t famous for great purchase and tend to strip easily, like this one was.


It was only after looking at the parts blowup that I realized the slot screw I was trying to remove was actually only a cover and the hex-head pin underneath was actually hidden away.  Once I realized I was only removing a cover, I applied some heat with a propane torch and got the thing loose.  I wouldn’t have tried that had it been the pin itself – too much thread resistance.


With the cover removed, the pin, with its easily grippable hex-head came out easily.  Once disassembled I soaked the retaining clips and calipre pin, both of which had years of dirt and rust on them.  The next morning I greased everything up and reassembled the caliper with shiny retaining clips and pin, along with the new brake pads.  I had to force the caliper piston back to make space for the new pads, but this was relatively straightforward with the rear brake fluid container cap removed.  The fluid back filled into the container as the piston pushed back with little resistance.


With the new pads on, I put the two body panels I’d removed for access back together and tightened it all up.  The caliper was still moving freely – not bad after seventy thousand kilometres on it.  Judging by the rough edges of the caliper pin cover, I wasn’t the first one in there.  Before I put it back I used a hack saw to deepen the groove.  Hopefully that’ll make it easier for getting into it next time, that and some judicious lubrication.


I took it for a few loops around the circle in front of our house and bedded in the pads.  After a minute or two they were biting so hard I could easily lock up the back wheel, so them’s working brakes.


A ride up and down the river to double check everything showed it all to be tight and dry and working perfectly.  No drag with the brakes off and quick response when I applied them.


That’s how to do your rear brakes on a Triumph Tiger 955i.  I’ve got the front pads on standby.  Hopefully what’s on there will last until the end of the season then I’ll do the fronts over the winter.  Should be a pretty similar job as the pads and calipers are identical.

The Tiger stops faster than that guy…


from Blogger https://ift.tt/2KDQv9C
via IFTTT

What’s a Kawasaki GTR1400/Concours14 like to ride? NUCLEAR SHINKANSEN!

I picked up this Concours14 (or 1400GTR or ZG1400 depending on what market you’re in) back in April for $5500CAD.  It had been sitting for some time and was full of spider nests.  I got the safety sorted yesterday and got the bike licensed and on the road today so we’re ready to finally make some tracks with this thing.

What’s it like to ride?  I’ve owned more Kawasakis than any other kind of bike and their engines have always been what makes them special, and this bike is no different.  The 1352cc inline four at the heart of the Connie was identical to the ZR1400 hyperbike’s motor back in the day, and it shows.

On my first ride I pulled out to pass a truck and it was behind me almost too quickly to process.  I’m coming off owning a late 90s Fireblade so it’s not like I’m inexperienced with quick bikes, but the 1400GTR not only has the horsepower but also has the torque to back it up.  Where the ‘Blade was staggeringly quick (and light), you had to wind it up to make it go.  It felt like a light but not overpowered machine at sub 6000rpm engine speeds.  At 6k it became seriously quick and if you were brave enough to chase the 13,000rpm redline the bike turned into a total head case.

You don’t need to wring the Kawasaki’s neck to make astonishingly rapid progress.  It weighs over 100 kilos more than the Fireblade but makes over 30 more horsepowers and pound-feets of torque; it doesn’t feel heavy, which is an amazing accomplishment for a bike that can carry over 500lbs, has shaft drive and feels like it’s ready for five hundred mile days.

It’s not telepathic in corners like the ‘Blade was, but that bike’s focus was so singular that it made everything else difficult.  The 1400GTR does a good job of cutting up corners, hiding its 300 kilo weight well, but then it can also ride all day, still hit 40mpg and carry two up with luggage.

Ontario makes you buy a vehicle history when you buy a new bike but I don’t mind because it offers you insight into the machine’s history.  This bike is a 2010 model but it wasn’t first licensed for the road until 2014 (!) meaning it’s only been rolling for seven years rather than eleven.  The first owner had it two years and then sold it on to the guy I got it from.  He rode it for a couple of years and then parked it after it tipped over on him in a parking lot (hence all the spider nests).

The prolonged park is what shrank the seal in the clutch that I’ve since replaced.  The drop also stopped the windshield from moving but both things have been solved now and this Concours, with only 32k on the odometer, is finally ready to do what these bikes do best:  make big miles.  One of the guys at our local dealership is a Concours fan and got his over 400,000kms, so these things have staying power as well as horsepower.

I’m looking forward to getting to know this nuclear shinkansen (Kawasaki Heavy Industries makes bullet trains too!) better this summer.

from Blogger https://ift.tt/2RKCpII
via IFTTT

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Once you’ve discovered riding a motorcycle, especially if you do it later in life as I have, you quickly come to realize that this isn’t something you’ll be able to do forever.  Motorcycling is physically and mentally demanding and you’d be crazy to do it without your faculties intact.  The thought of not being able to ride after discovering how freeing it is isn’t a comfortable one.  If you get so decrepit that you can’t do the things you love, what’s the point of being here?  Melissa Holbrook Pierson does a wonderful job of conveying that feeling in The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing.  If you’re looking for a pensive, profound motorcycle themed read, that one will do it for you.

***

The other day my buddy Jeff was finally able to make a deal for an old BMW R100RT that has been sitting in a shed in the woods for over a decade.  My son Max and I burned out of school on Friday afternoon and followed Jeff and his lovely wife up to their cottage on the shores of Lake Huron.

A neighbour five minutes down the road had purchased this BMW back in 1999 and had ridden it until 2005.  On a cool September day eleven years ago he rode back to Kincardine from a conference in Peterborough and parked the bike, it hasn’t run since.  Jeff discovered the bike a year ago while over there at a garage sale, but the old fellow didn’t want to part with it.  There was hope that he’d eventually get it out, clean it up and feel the wind in his beard again.  Jeff gently persisted, letting him know that if he ever did decide to sell it he had a buyer.

While over there getting the bike out of a shed hundreds of yards back in thick trees the owner told me, “I came to the realization that I’m not riding any bike, let alone this bike.  When that happened I finally decided to let it go.”  He’s still physically active even though that activity has landed him with metal pins where his bones used to be.  Struggling against old age is a pointless exercise, but I was right there with him – I’ll be him in thirty years if I’m here at all.  The real tragedy is that he’s as sharp as a whip; the mind is willing but the flesh is weak.

We were both enjoying the stories he was telling of how he went down to North Carolina to pick up the bike, and what it was like to bring it back across the border in the pre-internet age.  This guy had always wanted a BMW but when he was younger he couldn’t afford it; this was his dream machine but it has been sitting in a shed as the seasons spin by outside, alone but for the sound of creeping rust.  It turns out this Bimmer was Jeff’s dream machine as a young man as well, but you can’t buy a $3500 bike when you’re making six bucks an hour.  You can when you’re older and it’s under a decade of grime though.

We were both so excited going over there to get this bike out of the woods, but Jeff had said the owner was having a hard time doing it and our excitement quickly turned to ambivalence and then reflection as we heard the story of how it ended up parked under the trees.  While we struggled with conflicting feelings we were at least confident in the fact that we could bring this old machine back to the world.  Machines can sometimes offer this kind of immortality.

If you never take any risks and lead a sedentary life of caution, being old is just another day like any of the others in your tedious, careful life.  It makes me wonder what you hold up as your accomplishments if fear drives most of your decisions; I bet it’s nothing good.  However, if you get out there and take risks and live, perhaps the memories of that life well lived, the chances you’ve taken and the adventures you’ve had, will make easing into old age less onerous, and perhaps even rewarding.  To me motorcycles are a symbol of that belief in embracing risk.  I hope anyone who has ever looked at me with a disapproving frown when it comes to riding is very comfortable in their old age; I imagine it looks like any other day in their beige lives.

Knowing me I’m going to be very bad at old age if I get there at all, but I’m trying to take care of that now, on two wheels.

 

 If you’re looking at another clear eyed examination of death and our society’s inability to deal with it, check out:  https://temkblog.blogspot.com/2020/06/a-psychologicalmetaphysical-one-two.html

Media Arts Lab 2.0

Redesigning media arts to create, not consume

http://prezi.com/9ow8h2urx1va/dream-media-arts-lab/

The Macs in our media arts lab are getting old and plastic.  They can’t push the high-def video coming out of our latest cameras, so it’s time for a hardware upgrade, but it’s not just about the hardware.

One of the biggest problems we face in our static, desktop centred lab with ordered rows of imacs are the bad habits students fall back into.  Because our lab is like every other lab in the school (factory like rows of desktops in Pink Floyd The Wallesque rows of conformity),  students do what they usually do in a computer lab; they zone out and become passive media consumers.  Passive TV viewing has evolved into passive computer use.

In a media arts class where they are supposed to be in a creative, active mind-space, this is an ongoing class management headache.  Battling the Facebook zombies and youtube droolers becomes an ongoing headache in the typical computer lab, especially with the weakest students who tend to be the most non-experimental and habitual in their technology use.

I’ve looked at this from a typical school IT/lab point of view, advocating for a mini-lab concept that emphasizes diversified, mobile technology, but this is the media-arts angle.

Many of the ideas are similar, but the idea of mobile, adaptable media tools also spurred the realization that students in front of an online desktop act much the way that students in front of a television do; they become passive, unquestioning media consumers.  In a media arts lab this is an ongoing crisis.

There is the culture of entertainment that most digital natives subscribe to.  Computers with internet access are toys to be used for entertainment.  Their habitual use of computers at home and throughout their school careers have only enforced these bad habits.  Unfortunately, those habits extend to most educators too.  From PD days where the presenter assumes that if you’re on a computer you’re not paying attention, to teachers booking labs to have a period off, computers aren’t considered anything other than an entertaining distraction by just about everyone.

We then get them into media arts where they are creating large amounts of digital media, and most of them are trapped in their bad habits and social expectations of technology.  The fact that school related computer lab time is often unsupervised only adds to the problem.

Trying to break them out of that rut in a room with rows of desktops isn’t working.  Time to free up the tech, and break the passivity.

Lunch in San Francisco

One Whacky Timeline:

12:46am our time: worst earthquake in Japanese history happens.

1:55am Fri Mar 11: woke up before the alarm and got ready. 3.5 hours of sleep, not bad.

2:30: On way with Roy by 2:30,on way to get Oliver

3:00: in Guelph, on our way to Pearson

4:00: at Terminal 1 meeting students and parents

4:30: printing tickets and checking luggage. No one has a phone because we’re all worried about horrific stories of cell phone charges from overseas trips

5:30: lined up in customs (no cell phones allowed anyway)

6:15: cleared customs with front end students, got food, went to the departure gate. The United Airlines floor manager is there. He had seen our group on the computer and had gotten out front, trying to find out if flights are still going in and how bad things are.

6:45: Our Narita plane is enroute to San Francisco (SFO) and will be ready to return when we land. We get on the Toronto to San Fran flight because of this.

9:30: Enroute, our (fantastic) flight attendant was on the radio to SFO, they confirmed that Narita is receiving flights, the damage is localized in the north.

Notes from the plane:

Rumours of an earthquake/tsunami in the ticket line – one agent said we were crazy to be taking kids into that, thought she was talking about the quake from a couple of days ago.

Through ticket line and into big customs line, cleared customs, got most expensive food ever and got to the San Francisco flight to see the CBC news images of the tsunami hitting North East Japan. Seemed terrible. Talked to the floor manager who was already there to intercept us knowing our final destination.

At 7am, Narita was open for flights and we were ok to board for the SanFran flight, so we did.

About 2 hours into the flight the attendant came up and told us that our plane wasn’t there. Unclear information about what’s happening and no access to news.

About an hour later, he came back to say our connecting plane made it out of Osaka and would be there for us in SanFran. It’s currently 11:47, about 4.5 hours into the first flight and above the Rockies. Currently we believe that Tokyo is open, Narita is open and we have a plane to take us there. Damage was mainly due to tsunami along the North East coast, and we are heading south after the Tokyo days at the beginning.

Will write again when we’re on the ground and know more. Will try to contact school with updated info (get on wireless in SFO).

12:50 (9:50local): We land in SFO and head over to the international gate immediately to find out what’s going on. The 747 is fueled and ready to go, Narita is receiving planes, no information whatsoever on damage in Tokyo, other than that the mass transit had been closed for several hours and is now operating again.

 

1:15 (10:15local): Finally get in touch with our tour group – they have been contacted by the board and we are being recalled. Students very disappointed, tears in the airport. We’re trying to balance keeping them on their feet and working out what we’re supposed to be doing now (we’re told we’re flying back, but no one at the airport knows anything about this).

1:45 (10:45local): We have a return flight in 2 hours. I call my wife, Alanna and my VP, Francis and get some clarity. Then I take some students to eat (the flight to SFO did not include a meal – the return flight didn’t either).

3:00 (12pm local): We’re at the departure gate of the return flight trying to get tickets printed. Computers aren’t cooperating, general confusion, but it finally gets worked out and we get the tickets.

4:00 (1pm local): we’re on the return flight getting ready to depart.

9:00pm: landing at Pearson. Clear customs immediately (unlike US customs, Canada customs actually hires enough people to process passengers in less than two hours).

9:30pm: parents pick up students and we stand there stunned.

Notes:

Watching the news Saturday morning, I have no doubt that Northern Japan around Sendai is a disaster. We weren’t going there, but many people think of Japan as one place. If you heard that there was severe flooding in Montreal, would you not fly to Toronto that day?

We tried to act on facts relevant to what we were doing and where we were going. I wish we’d have had more and earlier contact with the tour group, but we were trapped in US customs, surrounded by ABSOLUTELY NO CELL PHONES USE signs, for the better part of 2 hours right when we needed to be in contact with them. Had we been enjoying the efficiency of Canada customs, we probably would never have gotten on the first flight to SFO.

The lack of cell phones on the trip because of all the travel horror stories didn’t help. Don’t know that cell phone access would have helped, but we’re more likely to be able to do this than we are able to ask US customs at Pearson airport to actually respond to the busiest travel day of the year by opening up all of their stalls (less than half were open, the line went on for ever). Their indifference was staggering.

The news is sensational. Watching it the day after, the same pieces of the most exceptional footage. If I see one more stunned English teacher in Tokyo throwing around terms like “melt down” as if they know what they’re talking about, I’m going to pop. People keep saying 3 Mile Island or Cherynoble – two nuclear disasters caused by incompetence and poor management. What you’re seeing here is just how resilient and safe nuclear plants can be. These were hit by a freaking tsunami and one of the largest earthquakes in history, and they are contained, and any flooding and damage will be managed with Japanese efficiency. I really wish the news would stop skyping with wild eyed idiots with no background or knowledge of nuclear power generation and taking their sketchy opinions as fact, just because they live in Japan.

I suspect that in the next week, this will fall out of the 24 hour news cycle, when that happens no one will care any more. The nuclear plants are locked down and cooling, the damage up north is surreal, but it will get sorted out. I’ll be really surprised that if, in a week or two, Japan isn’t normalized and life in 95% of the country isn’t back to normal.

The field trip being recalled was the right move. You don’t bring other people’s children into such uncertainty. Ultimately, some students, many of whom hadn’t traveled internationally, got the chance to cross the continent, and return. Students were miserable, but perhaps learned the greatest life lesson: through no fault of your own, sometimes, circumstances will take from you what you most want. Learning how to deal with will be one of the most valuable things they ever learn.