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!

Jeep Motototing South

Over the winter we got whacked by a snow plough and the insurance rental ended up being a Jeep Wrangler 4 door. I worked in an automotive shop to pay for university and Jeeps usually involved bringing an umbrella with you because they leaked so much, but this 2019 model has evolved from that poorly made thing. The mileage was better than I thought it would be for a big six cylinder, but I also discovered they come with an even more efficient turbo four that manages mid-20s MPG.

While we had it I stuck it in four wheel drive and went over a mountain of snow in a parking lot that would have beached anything else – and it did it on all season tires! At another point I had to take about 1500lbs of ewaste out of the school I work at and the Jeep swallowed it all with ease and it didn’t even seem to strain the suspension. On one particularly snowy night in an empty parking lot I four wheel drifted it and it felt surprisingly obliging doing something that athletic. I found the size of it also a nice surprise. I have to fold myself into the Mazda we have, but the Jeep felt like it fit.


What surprised me most about it was that it was genuinely enjoyable to drive.  Initially I found myself fighting the big wheels on the road, but once I came to trust the different driving dynamics of the thing I found it a comfortable long distance coverer.  Being up higher means I’m not getting all the slush in the face, which is nice too.  We never got to try the roof-removing modular nature of it because it was freezing, but that’s another feather in its hat.  I’ve been four wheeling in a tiny hatchback for so long that driving just feels like tedium.  The Wrangler made driving feel like an event instead of just a necessity.

With that all swirling around in my head, I first looked up the Wrangler and found it cost sixty grand, which is ridiculous, but that turned out to be a leather clad special edition thing.  The one I’d be looking at comes in at about forty grand, about the same as our last car, and there are big discounts on them at the moment.  They’ve got one with all the needed options on for about $41K nearby.

Knowing how this thing handles loads, I started looking up bike hauling options with them.  MotoTote has a 600 pound trailer hitch mounted motorcycle carrier that the Jeep could easily manage for $569 (I’m assuming that’s USD – so about $780CAD).  Also knowing its go anywhere cred and how big it is on the inside, I had images of my son and I taking it camping and off-roading.  A trailer with ATV and dirt bike on it would do us well.  Parking up in the wilderness and then camping out of the thing seems like a real possibility.  The Jeep’s outdoor image means there is a rich aftermarket of related products, even roof mounted tents, though it doesn’t need them.  The fold flat rear seats open up a massive back space that two sleeping bags could easily fit in.  A back attached tent makes a bit more sense in that case.


It’s a cool thing that could make the long wished for trip south in the winter a possibility.


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Hibernating a Motorcycle: Oil Changes

That ain’t a cheap oil change, but as expensive as it is,
it’s way cheaper than rebuilding a motor.

In a previous life I was an automotive technician and then service manager at a Quaker State shop.  For a few years there I was right up on my lubricants.  That background makes me very conscious of my motorbike fluid habits.   One of my standing rules when I put away a motorcycle for the winter is to change the oil before I do it.

You watch someone like Nick Sanders ride up and down the Americas for tens of thousands of kilometres and you wonder how his Yamaha looked like it had barely been used at the end of it:



Engines are designed to be running.  The very worst thing you could do is start and stop an engine over and over again (like we all do every day).  In the case of Sander’s epic rides from Alaska to Argentina and back, while what the Yamaha did was astonishing, the fact that the engine was in good shape shouldn’t have been a surprise.  It was barely ever allowed to cool down. 

Oils become acidic and moisture seeps in as things continually heat up and cool down.  Leaving old oil in your engine over the winter isn’t doing it any favours.  Swapping out contaminated oil for clean oil before you put it away is a great idea, so your engine isn’t soaking in the bad stuff.


Swapping it again in the spring is just a waste of money.  Oil doesn’t go bad sitting, but once you’re into the heat up cool down cycle again keep an eye on your mileage, and keep up on your oil changes, your engine will appreciate it.

Chemistry is where the big advances are happening nowadays.  Today’s oils have astonishing temperature ranges and abilities.  Here are some links on what’s going on with lubricants:

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http://ift.tt/1XixINJ
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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

 

 

 



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.

The Great Escape

This time of year always feels like Groundhog Day – go to  work, go to sleep, wake up, do it again.  It becomes so repetitive that it leaks into your mind, filling your thoughts so there is little room for anything else.  This year it’s amplified by the negativity surrounding my work.  All that combined with no riding for dark months on end and it’s hard not to get jammed.

If I time it right I can sneak out of Ontario on an above zero, dry road day.  You can still find double digital daily highs in Cincinatti and south.  A plugged in electric kit bonzai ride to Cinci and I’m out of the snowbelt.  From there it’s a less ragged ride south to New Orleans.  From Cinci I’d angle over to Memphis and follow the Mississipi down to the Big Easy…



After reading books like Todd Blubaugh’s Too Far Gone and watching Austin Vince Mondo Enduro the planet, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to get lost on the road.  Once out of the snowbelt, I’d be in no rush to be somewhere.  Without that very Western time fixation, I wouldn’t have to get wound up over deadlines.


If I’m not fixated on a destination the daily goals might not be that linear.  With local knowledge I’d hope to find things off the beaten path as I meander…





Off the top of my head, I’d leave New Orleans along the Gulf, visit Austin and then ride the Twisted Sisters in Texas Hill Country.  Austin’s also the home of the only North American MotoGP race, so if I timed my return with the race, I could be passing back through Austin on the way home in early April and catch Marc and the rest of the aliens doing their thing.  The goal on the way south would be to get familiar with Austin’s weirdness for the return stop.

After wandering Texas I’d take a run up to the Very Large Array in New Mexico and do my best Jodi Foster immitation.  New Mexico and Arizona have a pile of strange sites to see, so the wandering would get intense.  Norman Reedus did a Ride episode in New Mexico that does a good job of showing what’s on hand out there.

Even that far south the mountains can also catch you out with northern temperatures as we found out a couple of years ago in the Superstition Mountains just outside of Phoenix in early January, so not rushing and timing your rides is important when at altitude.  There are pile of old western towns and ruins in the US South West, along with some astonishing pieces of engineering.  Meandering from photo opportunity to photo opportunity would be a nice way to ease into this slow motion ride.

Tuscon is home of the Aeroplane Boneyard where thousands of retired air force planes sit in the desert.   A wander around there at sunset would be a glorious thing.  I’ve done the Phoenix area a couple of times and travelled from the north end of Arizona from Las Vegas, but haven’t travelled as far south as Tuscon.  From there I’d head across to Yuma, another famous western US location, before diving south into the Baja Penninsula.  A desert riding tour would be a pretty cool way of seeing Baja.

Mexico is a whole other world.  Most riding-the-Americas types blitz through it looking for a fast route south,but Mexico (with a final lunge into Belize) is where I’d wrap up this great escape from the never ending Canadian winter.  Some crystal caves, Mesoamerican pyramids and Belize beaches during the deep freeze and then working my way back up to Austin for early April…


Seeing the Ozarks and the Tail of the Dragon during the weeks after the race would be a nice way to wind up this great escape, getting back to the frozen north just as it’s not frozen anymore.

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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…

Frank Lloyd Wright’s House

Lloyd Wright’s only motorbike… he designed 70 odd cars though.

What does Frank Lloyd Wright have to do with motorcycles?  Well, he designed one.  In addition to that one 1930s Harley he also designed dozens of cars, including some pretty iconic ones like the VW Mini-Bus and the original gull-wing Mercedes 300.

I went on a tour around Wright’s house, Taliesin West, in Scottsdale and was blown away by this polymath’s genius.  I’m not that sharp, maybe just bright enough to recognize genius, but it leaves me in awe.  I always end up leaving places like Taliesin West thinking that a big part of genius is just not giving a shit about what other people think.  Free from social constraints geniuses are able to follow their urges and amaze the rest of us with their discoveries.  Just don’t get too close to one.


It’s covered in soot because it belches fire…

From reading Nietzsche to wandering around the Van Gogh Museum to seeing the world Wright made for himself, you can’t help but wonder what it must be like to be that free of social expectation.  That freedom is what Wright exploits to create an aesthetic that is truly iconic and unique.

Being free from the shackles of society, Wright, like Van Gogh and Nietzsche, make a real mess of their lives.  It’s in that glorious mess that their genius is realized.

Sherlock does a good job of showing just how broken genius can be.


Our tour guide told us the story of Taliesin’s water.  They used to haul it up onto the plateau where it’s located (miles from the Scottsdale of the day).  Wright decided he wanted a well dug so he called a guy up and had him dig even though the guy had been up on the ridge before and knew there was no water to be had up there.  


At 200 feet the well digger stopped.  He didn’t have the gear to go any further.  Wright made a fuss and told the guy to go and get what he needed to go deeper.  He finally struck water at almost 500 feet, and Taliesin has had its own water supply ever since (it’s wonderfully cold and tastes fantastic).  Wright never paid the well digger.


You have to wonder how many people geniuses use and throw away in order to express their genius.  Teliesin West is a work of art that needed water and Frank made it happen, but he broke a man’s livelihood in the process.  No one remembers that though and the art lives on.  The social calculus of genius is interesting – many people continue to benefit from Wright’s genius.  The people close to him who paid for it are all forgotten and long gone.


I wish I could go back in time and buy that well digger a beer.  It sounds like he needed one.

The house that Frank built (and didn’t pay for),

 

Naked Connie: 3d modelling customized motorcycle bodywork

I’ve re-3d-scanned the stripped down ZG1000 Kawasaki Concours in order to better work out what the rear lights will look like.  You can wheel in and out and manipulate that model below with a mouse.  The scanner did a bunch of software updates which led to a much higher resolution 3d image.


I modelled it with the stock seat on with an eye to taking the pillion seat off and building a very minimal back end.  With some careful cutting I’ll be able to use the seat dimensions to figure out how best to render the rear light assembly.  I’ve been doing 2-d drawings but they don’t deal with the 3d complexities of the real thing.  I’m hoping this solves that.

Using the 3d scanner with cardboard body panel templates gives you a pretty good idea of how it will look when it’s done.


As far as electronic parts go, I think it’s time to get the lights sorted out.  At the moment I’m looking at some integrated LED head and tail lights to minimize stalks sticking out of the bodywork.

A single brake and indicator unit from Amazon.
Integrated LED headlamp from Amazon.



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