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
http://canadamotoguide.com/2015/03/03/air-canadas-new-motorcycle-cargo-options/

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

http://www.ridedot.com/faq/  

http://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 https://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

 

 

 



Wired Thinking on Neurodiversity

Wired at 20 years old

My favorite magazine is WIRED, and I’m a magazine guy.  No other magazine dares me to think as widely and as daringly about the times we live in (if you’ve never picked up a copy, give it a go!).  Wired will go after interests of mine (internet culture, technology, etc) but it will also introduce me to the leading edge of fields I have only a passing experience in, and make me care about them.

This month they turn 20 years old.  They’ve been daringly guessing what will happen next for two decades now, and while they don’t always get it right, they always make you realize what changes are upon us.

As  I read a new edition I usually want to link and share the ideas they stir up.  This edition is full of them as Wired goes over an alphabet of ideas considered in the last two decades.

Neurodiversity is a topic that hits close to home.  With a son diagnosed, I’ve come to recognize how I’ve dealt with ASD myself.  One of the reasons I love reading Douglas Coupland or William Gibson is because many of their characters are neuro-atypical, and it’s nice to read about people like yourself; I find much of mainstream media quite alienating.

I’ve struggled with my inability to care about social distinction forever, and I feel for my son while he does.  I also think that difference is wonderful.  When we heard the diagnosis I said, “excellent! Who would want to be normal!?”  I guess the normal people do.

WIRED’s take on all this? Neurodiversity is like biological diversity; it develops resiliency.  The neurodiverse might not all be geniuses, but the ones that are (and geniuses by definition are neurodiverse) may very well save the human race.  Diversity allows a species to survive in extreme conditions, conditions that we’re making for ourselves.  As long as we’re hammering round pegs into square holes, we’re not allowing human beings to be as neurally diverse as we naturally are… and we’re hurting ourselves in the process.  Normal people really need to get off their high horses.

I wish I could convince the school system of this as it focuses exclusively on short comings in hopes of making the exceptional ceptional..  If they could improve my son’s image pattern recognition (which is astonishing), his special skills would be enhanced, instead they rush to make him fit a mould.  The system presses him to be as widely and flatly skilled as ‘normal’ people in hopes of making him what, normal?  Upcoming standardized tests won’t examine his superhuman abilities, they will focus on what ‘normal’ people are expected to do (they have charts).  When he fails a literacy test because he’s unable to verbalize what he knows in a manner that suits the testers, we’re left with the pieces.

Some might suggest that alternative school systems might offer a response to this, but I doubt it.  Adding money to remove expectations isn’t what is needed here.

Like eating factory produced meat, driving SUVs or buying sweatshop made products, how we treat the neurodiverse is going to be one of the things that points to our backward (hypocritical) thinking in the early twenty first century.  Like the eighteenth century person who thought slavery was perfectly acceptable, this social ignorance makes us look like fools to history.

Fortunately, I don’t really care what most people think about it.

Touring Ninja redux

I’ve been doing some research on a topbox for the Ninja again.  Having a permanent carrying option would allow me to make the bike more usable on long trips by giving me lockable storage on the bike.  It would also give my son a more comfortable and secure pillion with a backrest.  If I could take him with me on some extended day trips we’d be able to make some miles this summer.

I’d initially thought of getting a bigger bike for two upping with my son, but the cost of insurance on larger cc bikes for new riders and the doubling up of insurance when you own two bikes (though you can only ride one at a time) has put that on hold.  In the meantime, perhaps some storage on the Ninja would make it a bit more useful as a tourer.

Givi is pretty detailed in how to apply its luggage to my particular Ninja.  I went to them first to figure out what the hell the difference between monolock and monokey luggage is.  Basically, Givi monokey is the heavy duty kit and monolock is the light duty system.  Monokey can be switched between top and pannier duty as well as being built heavier and tougher.  Monolock is topcase only and meant for smaller bikes doing lighter duty.  Think monokey for a big touring bike with lots of luggage and monolock for sports bikes, smaller bikes and scooters.




Givi suggestions for a Ninja 650r ’05-’08:
http://www.giviluggage.co/givi-product-focus/bike-overview-kawasaki-er6-nf-05-08/





What I need for the Ninja Topbox:


Not bad for turning the Ninja into a two up tourer and long distance traveller.  I see some Givi luggage coming from A Viscous Cycle in the near future.

Behold! The Essay-inator!

In this corner, weighing in as the inevitable future, I give you: the writing algorithm!
… and in this corner, weighing in as a lazy, nineteenth century habit that no one can shake: tedious, overly structured High School English writing!


The trick is going to be creating an algorithm that plagiarism checkers won’t catch.  That shouldn’t be too hard as they tend to look for matching text, and any good algorithm would put the pieces together in varying ways depending on the variables given.


With a proscribed structure similar to sports stories or financial reports, it should be fairly easy to get Narrative Science to modify their writing engine to accept key points and put together a five paragraph essay that perfectly follows the tediously exact, point-proof-explanation requirements of high school essay writing.


The process should go something like this:

  • student logs in to the website and enters brainstorming ideas based on a cursory reading on the subject matter (Macbeth should be covered in 20 minutes, tops)
  • thesis (an arguable statement) is generated based on ideas given (or offered, depending on how much you want to put into this)
  • supporting points are suggested.  The algorithm places them in order of importance based on the number of hits and positive previous reviews, student picks the ones that grab them
  • the algorithm finds quotes from the play and lit crit that relate to each supporting point
  • body paragraphs are constructed following point/proof/explanation around chosen quotes
  • introduction and conclusion are generated based on body paragraphs
  • student reviews the paper for vocabulary or wording that doesn’t suit their style
  • if too complicated a word is used, the student can right click and get a list of synonyms
  • the completed paper, using variable data, is unique, and presented in the vicinity of the student’s knowledge of the subject matter, working vocabulary and writing style
Behold my essay-inator!

The point and click essay is finally here!


The efficiencies here should be obvious.  A typical paper requires hours of reading, then re-reading looking for quotes, then formulation of ideas, then organization… hours and hours!  This process could have a student sit down with a Shakespearean play they’ve never seen before, and have a finished essay completed in under an hour, on their smartphone!

They are still the authors, we’ve just taken the tedium and soulless nature of high school writing and given it to a machine, which only seems fair.

***

This is written facetiously, but it does raise a couple of interesting questions.  If high school writing requires such heavy duty plagiarism checking and tends to be about the same subjects using the same formats, and marked with the same rubrics year after year, what is the point?

If these guys have come up with an algorithm that can write data driven, structurally sound pieces this well, how long will it be before someone has put together a five paragraph essay-inator?  The only thing more soulless and formulaic than financial writing or sports reporting is high school English writing.  Time to let the computers do what they do best and take this repetitive, tedious work and do it more efficiently!

Up next, mechanized marking of essays: time to take the tedium out of being an English teacher!

If this works out well, we’ll be able to have students ‘write’ essays, and have them ‘marked’ in a matter of seconds!

Now that’s progress!


3d modelling madness

I got a Structure 3d scanner this week at work. We’re using it there for all sorts of educational activities, but I find myself painting the various Kawasaki products in my garage.

This thing costs about $350 bucks and straps on to an ipad.  You walk around your target ‘painting’ it on the ipad screen (it looks like you’re covering it in clay) and then you’re done.  Any of these motorcycle models took about a minute of walking around the bike…







It didn’t take me long to get some remarkably detailed images of the Concours












Because it’s so easy to paint an object and create a 3d model out of it, you tend to try all sorts of angles.








The scanner will also take a swing at rooms, though I’m not so good with them yet.  This is an image of the garage.  The Ninja is on the left, the Concours is further in on the right.

The file generated is basically a list of vertices connected by lines.  The sensor measures distances and constructs a 3d mesh out of them.  The result is a three dimensional image.

How could something like this be used?

You could scan a fairing or other part, get accurate geometry out of it and then modify it digitally before printing out a replacement.



I think I’m about five years away from being able to 3d print my own digitally modelled custom fairings for any bike.  The hold up right now is a 3d printer big enough to manage large prints.  What I’d really like is a high resolution Terminator 2 style Formlabs printer like the one below that’ll print up to fairing sized pieces…