Follow Opportunities, Not Dreams

I’m up early chasing through UK documents on their worrying lack of digital skills.  A typical UK worker falls behind many other country’s workers in basic IT skills, and I suspect the same is true of many Western countries.  When the digital economy is one of the few bright spots, Western students seem to be turning away from it (unless it’s video game design, everyone wants to be a video game designer – as long as it means playing video games and not actually learning how to code).

We can’t fill jobs in computer related fields, but less and less students are considering the pathway.

One of the prime movers in this shift away from viable employment follows an idea on bad advice I saw from a tech teacher at our school:

“Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.”


As a general rule, parents and students are guided in school to do what makes them happy.  We fill up courses playing hockey, taking photos and give out credits for things kids are doing at home anyway.  It makes for shiny, happy, low stressed students and a great graduation rate, but none of it is really preparing students for the workplace.

We are frequently updated with the number of students from our school who have been accepted to university (only university, the rest don’t matter).  We never see any stats on how many of them finish the degrees they were accepted for.  I suspect that stat isn’t very flattering.  An even less flattering stat would be an income check at the age of thirty.  I wonder what the employment prospects for those university bound students are.  What is their quality of life trying to pay off debts larger than they’ve ever been in history?  Yet that’s where all our ‘good’ students are directed.

I dropped out of high school and became a millwright because I had smart hands and the apprenticeship fell into my lap.  When I didn’t feel like that was intellectually stressful enough I tackled university and then chased the opportunities that arose from it.  I didn’t become a teacher because it was some kind of magical calling, I became a teacher because I was chasing opportunities.

Much of the advice students get in school are from life-long academics.  People who went to school, attended university, and then immediately became employed for life at school again (sometimes the same school they graduated from!)  These people with their carefully proscribed lives don’t experience the world the way the rest of us do.  When I see them telling students to ‘do what makes you happy’ and ‘follow your dreams!’, I cringe.


My son has recently been wondering about getting a job so he can manage his own money, he’s eleven.  I told him, ‘do you know why they call it work?’  He looked at me for a moment and then said, ‘because it isn’t for fun?’  Out of the mouths of babes.  I only wish school guidance would realize that basic truth.

You can derive a great deal of satisfaction out of your work without it being some kind of romantic calling.  Few people live the lives of celebrities, playing a game or making art and wallowing in the money derived from it.  Insinuating that kids could be that person is dishonest at worst and deceiving at best, but how would you know if you’ve never had to struggle for work?  We can all find satisfying and challenging work if we push ourselves and chase opportunity.  Train yourself to better chase opportunity and you’ll find your circumstances will continue to change and improve.  One day you might find yourself in a well paid, challenging profession that you’d never have predicted for yourself.

Or, you know, maybe making a living…

Quinn Norton gives the blather some context.  Hobbies are for fun, your career
is probably not your hobby, and that’s fine, it’s how the world works.


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.

Bending People to the Data

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The idea of data driven learning has become very popular.  This isn’t surprising since data is beginning to drive everything.  It becomes problematic when data is manipulated for ulterior, usually political motives rather than being understood in its own context.

It’s a complex series of events that have led us to this point.  We’re living in an age of data where we are recording much of it for the first time.  We mistakenly describe this as ‘creating information’, but we’ve always done that.  What digitization does is allow us to save that data on a massive scale and then make connections in it we couldn’t before.

We’re not creating any more information than we used to, but we are recording it now at an unprecedented rate.

We’ve been experiencing this information forever.  If I went for a ride on my motorbike in the 1950s I would have experienced roughly the same ‘data’ that I’d experience going for a ride now.  The difference now is that the go-pro on my helmet and youtube means that data is saved and shared.  We’re not creating any more information than we did before, but we’re recording it and allowing others to experience data now on an unprecedented scale.

This mass recording and access to data is a relatively new phenomenon so we should take care to contextualize it, but we don’t.  We recognize that data driven methods yield results, but in our rush to enter this brave new world of data we happily ignore what doesn’t suit our goals and take other data out of context if it serves our cause.  When politics or self-promotion drive data selection the benefits of data driven management are in doubt.  Politics and self-promotion always influence data collection and presentation.

Since it is so much easier to record and share data we’re tempted to structure our activities around data creation rather than being present in the genuine experience.  I suspect we’ll get better at this as technology becomes less invasive and allows us to capture moments with minimal interference.  The evolution from TV to analogue video to digital video is a good example of this progress.  But in the early stages of this evolution we’re still awkwardly focusing on data collection rather than genuine experience.  Selfies at the Tour de France this year are an example.  If you watch any live event where people are focused on recording rather than experiencing the moment you’ll know this is endemic.  From the World Cup to the Olympics, the focus on data collection gets in the way of being there.  This creates some interesting changes in experiential value.  You now need to share the experience live rather than relating it after the fact.  Being there is less important than your recording of being there.  Every experience is one step removed.

Education is no different.  Rather than focusing on ways to capture genuine experience in as non-invasive a way as possible, we create artificial situations that produce data for its own sake; standardized testing is a fine example.  Rather than integrating literacy assessment into genuine experience driven learning, we create an artificial testing environment that is designed to produce data.  Students and the complexities of literacy are minor components in that process.  We then base management decisions on the corrupted data that is produced from these artificial situations.

If data collection is the point of the exercise then the data you’re producing is a reflection of the data collection process more than it is a meaningful analysis of whatever it is you think you’re assessing.

Technology needs to be pushed to produce non-invasive ways of collecting genuine data.  Not only will this allow people to bask in the moment rather than ignoring first hand experience to create second rate data, but it will also serve student learning by focusing on the learning itself instead of the data gathering processes.  

We need to stop bending the people to the data and start demanding that the data find us where we are, in genuine experience.  In the meantime it is vital that we don’t blindly believe that there are absolute truths in data that is produced for its own sake with ulterior motives.

Things You Want To Do In Your 40s

Work for myself so I don’t have to work for some myopic middle manager more interested in climbing than doing the right thing?  Yeah, that’d be nice.  Work on something as hard as I can knowing that no one else can walk in on a whim and derail it?  That’d be nice too.  Challenge my technical skills and develop my diverse talents to new levels of excellence?  That’d be awesome.  Have the means to fearlessly explore technology and the world around us?  Brilliant!

$1.3 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money but it would mean a thousand bucks a week until I’m 75 years old.  Somebody better at math and competent with investments could probably figure out a more accurate, lower amount that would do the same thing.  It’s comfortably middle-class, but I don’t really dream of being rich, I dream of being free from work to pursue my passions.  If I could pull that off what would I do with my time?  It’s kind of like retirement, but I want to do it now while I’m still able to do something useful with it.  I don’t think I ever want to retire.

Mechanical Sympathy would expand and become an
income stream of its own. It would be the centre of
an online media empire!

Here’s what I’d aim at if I weren’t busy pulling the plough:

MEDIA MAKER

Writer:  I’d exercise the English degree and write, but not in a specific genre.  I’d pursue motorcycle and travel writing more aggressively.  I’d be happiest freelancing and working once or twice a month on assignment with the occasional larger travel project which would lead to a book.  Lois Pryce is a role model.  While that wasn’t happening I’d be writing fictional novels.  It would be nice to work for established publications, but developing my own brand online would allow for more control over what I’m creating.  I’ve been working in large bureaucracies for too long.

If it’s new and technically challenging I’m into it. 
Having access to that kind of kit is exciting.
I like to be surprised by what new tech can do.

Photographer:  The goal would be to have the work pay for the gear, and the gear I’m looking for is pretty technical.  I’d like to have professional quality photo and video gear on hand, as well as technically challenging tools like aerial drones, full spectrum and 360° virtual reality cameras to test limits and produce original, even experimental work.  If it’s new and technically challenging I’m into it, especially if it probably won’t work the first time.

Digital Media:  Exploring digital media has long been an interest (I teach it now).  Having access to the latest tech, not to consume but to experiment and explore, would be fantastic.  Projects would include VR environment building in CAD and simulation, as well as immersive media creation.  I’m working on a VR research project in school at the moment.  I feel like major breakthroughs are currently happening there.  What we have in ten years will make our screen use today look archaic.

TECHNOLOGIST

I got into 3d scanning last year.  The resolution isn’t
spectacular, but it’s amazing what you can do with
a simple 3d scanner on an ipad.

Mechanic:  I’ve dusted off old mechanical skills with motorcycling, along with some long unused artistic urges.  Customizing motorbikes is an elegant way to combine left brained aesthetic creativity with right brained mechanical expertise; it’s a whole brain hobby!  Having enough time, space and money on hand to chase down old bikes and see customizations through to completion would be grist for the writing and photography mill.

Digital Engineering:  I’m especially interested in micro-manufacturing using digital tools.  Multi-axis milling machines using CAD models offer new avenues into high-tech customization.  3d printers are making advances every day.  Being able to print my own fairing designs would be brilliant.  Being able to print my own designs with dragon scales would be even better.


An opportunity to borrow new technology and see what it is capable of would also be grist for writing and media creation.  If in the process I happened to get very good at producing customized parts, I’d lease the gear and get to it.  As prices fall on what was once expensive industrial grade equipment and digital management makes high tolerance production available to everyone, a new post-industrial age of customization will emerge.

Kawasaki’s H2 supercharger impeller is a thing of beauty.  The technology that built it is becoming more accessible every day.

With table top laser cutters and various other digital tools becoming commonplace, the chance to explore these technologies without safety nannies hand wringing from above would be delightful.  The home garage of the future is going to be a magical place of customized, personal manufacturing.  It would be a blast to have the time and means to explore it.

I really do enjoy teaching, but the vampiric bureaucracies that manage it make working in education feel like giving blood; you’re doing a good thing but you always come out feeling drained.  I’d happily take in apprentices on my own terms and genuinely enjoy helping them discover and develop their talents, I just wouldn’t want to do it in an institution of learning.
 
One of the things I want to do in my forties is stop others from diluting my focus and wasting my time with their own mediocre expectations.

A Quick Motorcycle Chain Switch

After previous experiences breaking and installing motorcycle chains I figured this time it would be fairly straightforward thanks to a good tool and knowing what I’m doing.  The Tiger’s chain had a pretty severe tight spot in it. When I set the tight spot to spec (40mm of slack), the loose part was wobbling around with twice that.  If I set the loose part to spec the tight part would rumble on the sprockets.  You could actually feel the difference in chain tension under acceleration as a surge.

The tool I got last time was quick to set up.  The blue 500 size chain pin pusher slotted right in out of the handle where it had been sitting since my last chain change on the Ninja over two years ago.

The Tiger chain is a 535 sized chain (wider than the Ninja’s, but the same pitch length between the links – the Ninja was a 520 chain).  
With the pin pusher piece in place I tightened the outer bolt with a 10mm ratchet and it easily pushed the pins out of the old master link with only mild force on a small ratchet.


With the old chain removed I spent some time cleaning up the sprockets, which were in great condition.  The front sprocket was packed with years of gum from chain lube and it took a while to get it all out, first with a screwdriver and afterwards wiping it up with some WD40.  With it all cleaned off it looked like a bit of rust had found its way onto the front sprocket.


The rear sprocket was only covered in chain oil remnants and cleaning it up was easily done.


If you’re not yahooing around and yanking on your chain like a madman all the time sprockets tend to last, especially big, beefy 535 wide ones; this bike has only been owned by gentlemen.  I might swap out the rear 46 tooth sprocket for a 47 tooth one to lower the revs slightly on the next chain, but that’s years down the road, and with the sprockets in good shape, it seemed silly to do a full switch now.

A master link came with the chain which is a bit off-putting because Fortnine immediately filled the screen with master links after I purchased the chain, which I took to mean I needed one.  I guess I’ll hang on to it, but if the chain I’m buying comes with it letting me know seems like the polite thing to do rather than encouraging an upsell.

The master link that came with the chain had an interesting process for installation.  I’m told this is quite common on bicycles now.  The master link pins have a threaded piece on the end of them.  You thread the long pins on the chain and then alternate tighten the bolts until they won’t go any further.



This snugs the outer piece of the master link onto the pins.  When you’re done you back off the nuts a few turns and then break them off with a pair of pliers.  It worked well.

A chain so new it’s still covered in the wax it was packaged in to stop rust.

With the new chain set to 35mm of sag top and bottom and lubricated with chain wax (preferred because it doesn’t make a gooey mess of things, sticks to the chain well and is also a lovely honey colour), it was time for a test ride.  A twenty minute ride in the setting sun up to 100kms per hour demonstrated all sorts of improvement.  The surging feeling was gone making the bike much smoother under acceleration.  In corners that surging could destabalize the bike, it doesn’t any more.  The new chain is also noticably quieter.

This time round I think the actual chain removal and installation took about 40 minutes moving slowly and deliberately.  The cleanup of the front sprocket was what took the most time, though it probably did a lot to quiet the new chain (not running through a tunnel of goop on each revolution has to be better).

While I had the tools out I finished the counteract balancing beads install I started earlier in the week by doing the back tire as well.  With beads now in the front and rear tires vibrations through the handlebars are gone and the whole bike is rattle free at speed.  I never really got to try them out on the Concours, but what little I did seemed to work, and seeing as the beads are cheaper than taking in tires to get balanced anyway, why not?  I’m glad I did.

The Tiger is now as arrow straight and smooth as it can be.  It was a joy to ride it home as the sun set on Sunday evening.

IIHTM (If I Had The Money): September in Spain & Then The Long Way Home

This is why it’s good to be friends with Austin Vince on Facebook, it makes you daydream.

What would I do if I were free of money and the time constraints it demands?  I’d be planning a month in Spain next year!

The week of the 19th to the 23rd (Monday to Friday) would be doing the Pyrenees with Austin and crew on my Triumph Tiger Explorer.

The Aragón round of MotoGP happens on the next weekend!

I’d aim to get in country with my bike in the first week of September and then have the  a couple of weeks toodling about before a week in the Pyranees with Austin Vince!  After the Austin week I’d be straight over to Aragon for the MotoGP weekend.  After a couple of days of getting organized, the long trek home would begin… the long way round!

A week riding the Pyranees with Austin Vince, and then a weekend at MotoGP Aragon!

Spain to Tokyo via Southern Europe, India, South East Asia and China, would be one hell of a ride.  A flight to L.A. would have me riding through the southern States before heading north and home in the spring.

Bike shipping to Europe?  about ~ $1000
canadamotoguide.com/2015/03/03/air-canadas-new-motorcycle-cargo-options/

www.thethinkbox.ca/2012/11/18/how-to-fly-and-store-your-motorcycle-overseas-for-touring-without-using-a-shipping-company-cheaply/

www.ridedot.com/faq/  

www.horizonsunlimited.com/get-ready/shipping-the-bike

I couldn’t find anything off-hand, but I’d guess about $2000 to fly the bike back into North America.  I could always ask Austin how he did it.


Timing of a fall Spain to Japan trip?

Southern Europe: September/October
India/South East Asia: November/December
China/Japan: January/February
Southern US:  March/April



This route is about 29,000kms with 3 air cargo bits and one hell of a ferry ride:
Toronto to Madrid
Turkey to India
Shanghai to Osaka Ferry www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp/english/unkou.htm
Tokyo to Los Angeles

The Most Underused Resource In Education

*** in Ontario teachers have to undergo an in-class review every five years by one of the school administration ***

The other day our six month pregnant one contract/LTO teacher was running around in a panic trying to get dodgey board laptops to work with dodgey board projectors on the dodgey board network.  Her panic was the result of a VP coming into her class for her review.  I’ve seen this happen with many teachers, young and old; the panic over admin coming in to review their teaching practices.

The stress of poor board technology practices aside, this review of teaching practices by admins bothers me on a couple of levels.

Back in the day, when I was in millwright training, my old Jamaican mentor told me the story of our department boss.  He had a mechanical background, but he was incredibly lazy.  His fame came from being able to slide under a truck and fall asleep on night shift for hours at a time.  He was so bad at the work that the company had no choice but to promote him into management.  I’ve since come to realize that this was a pretty pessimistic view of how managers become managers, but as an impressionable nineteen year old listening to a man who never told me a lie, it seemed the truth.  I’ve always been cautious about management as a result, never assuming that they are somehow superior because of their title.

There is no doubt that leadership in education is a vital component, and we all hope that the people playing those administrative parts do it for all the right reasons (and not because they were such a disaster in the classroom that it was better for them to manage).  What I don’t understand is why admin are mandated to come into a teacher’s class and somehow assess their ability to teach.  What makes an administrator qualified to meaningfully review classroom teaching?  Whether an administrator opted out of the classroom because they found it tedious, difficult or simply wanted a change, the simple truth is that they aren’t teaching, and in many cases didn’t for very long before they stepped into a management role. Asking them to review something they dropped after a short period of time seems… odd.  Administrators are generally not master teachers.

I have no trouble with sharing my practice and would encourage teachers to experience each other’s classrooms at every possible opportunity, this isn’t about advocating for a closed classroom, and I’m not advocating for the removal of teacher in-class review, just who is doing it.

In most cases vice principals and principals take on these roles not because they were expert teachers, but because their interests lie elsewhere.  This would suggest that teaching was never their strong suit.  Taking on school leadership roles is a very heavy load, and I can appreciate the fact that some teachers want to put the classroom behind them and take that on; it’s important work and a great challenge.  What I can’t understand is why those same people are now mandated to sit in on a teacher’s classes and review their teaching skills.

In the case of a new teacher, it seems like it might help and offer them a bit of mentorship in the process, but what about the case of the twenty five year veteran of the classroom?  The master teacher who has not only survived but thrived in the role of teacher?  How does a VP with five years in-class experience assess that?  Do they even know what they’re looking at?

Those same veteran teachers are the most underused resource in education.  Department headships, like VP and principal positions, are administrative, they offer little in the way of teaching focused career enhancement.  Telling a senior teacher that this should be their focus isn’t honouring the expertise they have developed from years working with students actually teaching.

It might seem like a rather simple idea, but why don’t those senior teachers take on this role of in-class review and mentorship?  Having a senior teacher from my own department drop in for a lesson and a talk would be instructive for me, demonstrate respect for their skills and allow expert teachers to express their mastery.  It would also create a continuous sense of valid professional development within departments.  Instead of a fairly pointless and closely monitored five year review by people who don’t even want to work in a classroom any more, how about an ongoing senior teacher review (20+ years in the classroom in order to take on that role).

The administrative arm of things does important work, but to say they have the experience and skill to determine what a front line teacher is doing right or wrong in a classroom is ridiculous.  Instead of driving our senior teachers into administration as if that is the only opportunity for ‘advancement’, why not recognize mastery in a very challenging environment, and encourage those with that expertise to share what they know?

Local Bike Shops

Around the horn on local bike shops

I recently took a little road trip to local bike shops, two of which I hadn’t been to yet.  So far I’ve been a diligent Royal Distributing
customer,  they are closest and offer a big selection.  It’s pretty much serve yourself, and the kids working there don’t seem to know too much about riding as opposed to selling stuff.  They also tend toward cheaper, mainstream gear.

To expand my options I thought I’d drop by A Vicious Cycle in New Dundee (great name) and Tri-City Cycle in Waterloo.

A Vicious Cycle had knowledgeable guys on the counter who were less focused on a quick sale than giving me good advice.  They knew what they were talking about and took the time to figure out what I needed (as opposed to what I’d seen online).  I think I might have found my new favorite bike shop.

Tri-City Cycle is a motorbike dealer, so the main building is all about selling bikes.  There is a small room in a building in the back that sells gear, but I found the selection quite limited and the vibe was quick sell, though the guy there did know of what he spoke.  Like Royal Distributing, Tri-City has a more mass market vibe; it was stuffed with product moving through.

My new favorite

A Vicious Cycle (which I never get tired of saying) was clean, well stocked but organized and, as mentioned, the sales support was excellent.  I’m going to go for the Macna summer pants they have on offer.  They seem to be of excellent quality and are by a European manufacturer that aren’t the same same old brands pushed everywhere else.  Most importantly, the knowledgeable and patient sales guy took the time to show me a pair and how they work.

I’d never suggest going to a single retailer for all your gear.  At various times different retailers will have what you’re looking for on sale or on hand, but when you find a place that you like, it’s nice to know you have a first go-to that won’t let you down.

Follow Up

I got the Macna summer pants and they are excellent.  I ordered online, A Vicious Cycle sent me updates so I knew where things were in the delivery cycle, and I received my pants a day before they said I would.  The pants themselves are very high quality and unique looking compared to the matt black look popular in North American gear.  Unlike the Joe Rocket pants I tried which are far too long in the leg, the Macna’s fit me perfectly, off the rack.  Between the the quality of the online service and quality of the product, I’m very happy with A Vicious Cycle.

The Triumph Tiger 800: the bike I’ll get hard luggage for

Thanks to their honest advice about how much I’d need to put into getting a hard luggage rack that works well with the Ninja, I’ve decided to go with a tail bag and save the carrying gear for a future bike more suited to the task.

In the meantime, I can’t say enough about the quality of those Macna pants.  They breath like crazy, even on hot sunny days, and because they aren’t black they reflect their share of heat as well.  If you’re looking for a summer pant, these are excellent!

Bike Evolution

I’ve been pondering motorbikes as the season ends here in Canada and the darkness closes in.  I’m only 300 miles away from putting the Concours over the thirty thousand mile mark, which has been the goal this year.

The Concours has been a revelation.  This year I’ve gone international with it, doing thousand mile trips and circumnavigating great lakes.  I continue to modify and adjust, making it more and more long distance worthy.

Surprisingly, I’m finding it very satisfying in the twisties, and that 999cc Ninja motor wails like a banshee if you wind it up, so there is no lack of visceral thrill in riding it.  So satisfying is it that I’m left wondering what more I’d need in a road bike.

That’s where the KLX came in.  As an off-road tool it’s purpose built, but I’m finding that I don’t have the time or the local access to dedicate to off road riding.  I enjoy it, but the cottage I was thinking of using it at isn’t really that accessible and other than riding around on dirt roads, I’m finding it difficult to justify, especially for what it cost.

There is also the culture side of it.  I get a nostalgic jolt out of the idea of riding a classic Scrambler all over the place, but MX riding?  Not so much.  It all seems a bit Ricky Racer to me.  I like green laning, and trail riding, but I’m not so much about the radical off road stuff, so a less MX like bike would do the trick.   One that scratches that nostalgic itch at the same time would do double duty…

Triumph’s Bike Configurator makes dreaming a bit too easy…


Maybe next year will evolve into a Scrambler while running the ever present Concours – a sport tourer and a multi-purpose classic would each get a fairer share of the time I can dedicate to the saddle.


The new Bonneville/Scrambler is something else again:

Bigger motor, lighter bike.  The 2016 Bonneville Scrambler is a piece of fast art!


Kawasaki KLX250 Suspension Adjustment

I can pick the thing up, so lifting up the wheels isn’t the ordeal
it is on the massive Concours. To get both wheels up I used
a wooden box on a jack and some jack stands on the back.

Today I had a go at the suspension of the KLX250.  The previous owner is a much smaller fellow than me, so he had the suspension at stock levels (preset for a 150lb rider with no luggage or passenger).  For a big guy like me (6’3″, 240lbs) the front was wallowy and the back felt loose.

The suspension adjustments are on the bottom of the forks at the front.  The rear has rebound damping down at the bottom of the shock and compression dampening at the top.


I’ve included photos of each below.  Tightening up the suspension was quick and relatively painless.  The clicks are obvious and about half a turn of the screwdriver each.  After cleaning up with wd40, I had no trouble turning any of them.


Click on any of the photos to get a bigger image.

front forks

On the bottom of the front forks you’ll find a hexagonal opening.  There is a rubber cover in there.  It’s designed with a flat edge and pops out easily with a small, flat screwdriver.  Inside you’ll see a small, flat headed bolt.  Each half turn creates an obvious click.  I turned each side clockwise four clicks.  No more wallowing, and the forks feel tighter on cornering.  On braking I get a single, less pronounced drop.  That was a quick fix.


compression damping
adjuster

 

rebound damping adjuster

 rear suspension

The rebound damping adjuster is on the side of the bottom of the shock housing.  It gets dirty under there so wiping it down first helps in finding things.  It’s easy to get a flat screwdriver on the adjuster bolt, and it turns easily. The clicks are obvious, I turned it up (clockwise) four clicks.

The compression damping adjuster is obvious behind the cutout in the fairing.  It was tucked in behind an electrical connector on mine which easily pushed aside.  Since it’s out of the muck, this one doesn’t get dirty.  The clicks were again obvious – I turned this one up four clicks as well.

I then took the bike for a quick ride to get gas.  On the road it corners more tightly with none of the previous wallow.  On the way back I tried to ride as directly as I could rather than follow the roads.  I got to the end of pavement in a subdivision and found myself on a deeply rutted dirt road which led to a hydro station.  I then nipped down a walking path to the road behind my subdivision.  This bike is so quiet a rabbit was surprised when I puttered by.  There is a large dirt pile where I came out of the bush so I zipped up it and back.  Off road the bike is much tighter.  There is still a lot of suspension travel, but I could feel what the wheels were doing much more clearly, the bike just feels tighter.  I was just hoping to calm the wallow.  That happened, but the whole bike dynamically feels so much more suited to me now.

Now that I know where the bits and pieces are, I’m intending to keep monkeying with the settings to get it customized to my size and preferences.  With the settings that easy to play with, why not?

The Kawasaki KLX250 Owner’s Manual