MotoGP vs. Formula 1

A very expensive traffic jam

I just finished watching the F1 parade in Monte Carlo.  Watching the massive, modern F1 cars (so wide they practically fill the road) following each other through the streets of Monte Carlo reminded me why I’ve been watching MotoGP instead.  It’s not uncommon to see multiple lead changes on a single lap in MotoGP, and dozens of mid-field overtakings during a race.  It’s uncommon to see any lead changes in an F1 race and a driver climbing through the field has become a rarity.  At Monte Carlo this morning the only overtaking was political.

I started watching F1 during Michael Schumacher‘s rookie year and followed him all the way through his career.  My favourite race of his was ’94 in Spain where he managed second place while stuck in one gear.  Spain a couple of years later was a master class in keeping an F1 car on the pavement in torrential rain.  While the engineering is interesting in F1 it’s not why I watched it regularly for over two decades, it was because of the brilliance of the drivers.

I’m now into my second season of watching Motogp.  The first race I watched had a resurgent 34(!) year old Valentino Rossi chasing the astonishing Marc Marquez (beginning a record breaking run of wins) to a one two finish with multiple lead changes in a single lap.

It’s hard to see just how much a MotoGP racer works their tires.
Slow motion is the way to go if you want to see just how much
they drift on a single wheel.

In one of the early races an announcer mentioned how in Formula One the car is the majority of the equation whereas in Motogp the rider is the key component.  From that moment on I made an effort to understand the complexities of riding a race bike.  Motosports that are decided by operator skill over engineering prowess (and budget) are what I’m into.  Schumi got that second place in Spain driving a second tier car.  When he started winning championships with a massive budget I was less interested.

Watching the parade around Monte Carlo reminded me of why I enjoy the bikes more.  With the rider such a big part of the equation, you’ll see human excellence much more clearly on two wheels than you will with four. There is much less between a rider and the road than there is between a driver and the road.  While one is wrestling with their machine the other is setting suspension settings and adjusting engine maps.

With the Isle of Man TT coming up I’ll also be able to see bikes battling on public roads just as the F1 cars didn’t do on the streets of Monte Carlo. You see a lot of precision in Monte Carlo but you don’t see the breath taking bravery that you’ll see in the TT.  If you’ve never watched one before, give it a go.

This has me thinking about vehicle dynamics and the differences between motorcycles and cars… fodder for my next post…

From Tony Foale’s Motorcycle Handling & Chasis Design: a must read if you’re curious about motorbike dynamics

Some Links

Formula One vs. Motogp: vehicle comparison
F1 car mechanical and aerodynamic forces
Applying the fluid dynamics of F1 aerodynamics to motorcycle racing
The Physics of Motorbikes
Which is faster? F1 or MotoGP (by F1 fanatics)



Money To Burn Wish List

Another wish list… we were talking about what we’d do with a lotto win while camping last weekend.  I’d be aiming to expand into road racing and off road riding.  Here’s what my cost-no-object-moto-summer would look like.

LOGISTICS


I’ve been thinking about a Ford Transit van, Guy Martin style, but now I’m thinking about a trailer.  Stealth Trailers make an aluminium bike trailer that is pretty awesome.  It weighs about 1200lbs and carries another 1700lbs, so something with a three thousand pound towing capacity would manage it.  Fortunately, the Jeep Cherokee I’m currently fixated on can tow 4500lbs.


Trailer: ~$6000
Jeep:    ~$36500
———————-
~$42,500

I’d also pick up a custom pop up tent with Mechanical Sympathy printed on it.  They look like they go for about a thousand bucks plus whatever the custom screening costs.  Setup off the back of the trailer I’d have an instant pit stand.


Tent ~$1500

ROAD RACING


Track Bike (newer)

Kawasaki ZX-6R if I wanted to keep it Kawi as I have thus far.

Other short listed bikes would be the Honda CBR600RR or the Triumph Daytona 675R.  All three are mid-displacement bikes that would allow for an engrossing track experience.  A litre bike is a bit much for track day riding, unless you’re either an ex-professional or compensating for something.

Price range (new) : $12,500 (Honda) to $14,500 (Triumph) with the Kawi in between.  I’d pick the one that fits best.  Rather than a new one I’d probably find a used one and then strip it down to race.  I could find a lightly used one of these for about six grand and spend another four to get it race ready.
~$10,000

Track Training & Track Days

 Racer5The three day intro-weekend would do the trick giving me the basics on a rented Honda.

$1000

Getting in some laps at Grand Bend
$100 a pop x 5 a summer = $500

Pro6 Cycle track days at Calabogie
$350 a pop x3 a summer (x2 meet up with Jason) = $2100

Vintage Racer

Join the VRRA and take their racing school.
$475

A mid-80s Honda Interceptor would be my classic bike of choice.  I couldn’t care less how competitive it might be, this is an exercise in nostalgia.

You can find well kept ones for a couple of thousand dollars online.  Converting it to a race bike would cost that much again.
$4000

Road racing ain’t cheap…

————————–
~$18,000 + race costs (tires, etc)

OFF ROAD

Suzuki DR-Z400S x2
Build out a couple of Suzukis, do some training, complete some multi-day enduro events.
~$7000 each + maintenance and upgrades

Join OFTR
~$65

Trail Tours Dual Sport Training
$250

Smart Adventures All Day Training
$260

$2000 competition budget
————–
$16,575


Forty-two, eighteen and sixteen and a half thousand (~$76k) and I’d be having a very busy summer expanding my motorbiking repertoire both on and off road.  That’s only a two thirds of the price of a new Range Rover!  What a deal!

PW80 is Rolling!

A fully functional stable!

After banging my head against a non-starting PW80 for the better part of two weeks I went back to basic troubleshooting.

The one thing I changed prior to it dying entirely was the spark plug.  The only NGK I could find was a BPR6HS, the bike is supposed to take a BP6HS.  The difference is a resistor which prevents feedback to electronic equipment in the system (important if you’ve got a machine that uses computers and other finicky components – the PW80 is nothing like that complicated).

I’d read that the resistor doesn’t matter, but after swapping back to the old plug the bike fired up immediately.  I’ve got to look further into resistor effects on simple two stroke machines like the PW80, but the troubleshooting still stands: when you change something and it suddenly stops working, change it back even if you think it’s supposed to be an improvement!

I’m going to regap and try the newer plug again, but if it kills it again I’ll have to accept that the PW80 doesn’t like (and doesn’t need) a plug with a resistor in it.

After it was up and running we had a throttle lesson, walking next to the bike while my son got a feel for rolling on the throttle gently.  I then tore around in circles on it – it’s a zippy little machine!

This Month’s Wish List

This changes moment to moment, but based on bikes I’ve actually thrown a leg over, and the shear avalanche of reports on the Ninja H2, I’ve got a couple of new machines on my wish list.

Sport Tourer:  Honda VFR800

It’s a jewel like machine with beautiful finish.  It’ll run all day, has a magic variable valve engine, and can corner with the best of them.  It also hits a nostalgic button with me.

$14,500

Bonkers Super Bike:  Kawasaki Ninja H2

A supercharger?  200+ horsepower?  It has wings for godsake!  It’s a technological tour-de-force and one of a kind.  I used to be all wobbly over Hayabusas, but the H2 is a daring step in another direction.  It ain’t cheap, but it’ll be collectable one day.  If I were ever to do Bonneville, this’d be the bike to bring.

$27,500

Off-road ready Dual Sport: CCM 450 Adventure

A light-weight, off-road capable dual sport bike with a bullet-proof BMW engine that can handle everything from actually adventuring off road to long distance travel.  It’s the bike that would get me coast to coast to coast in Canada.

$10,000 ?


Wow, that is a well groomed man.


Back To Basics:  Ducati Scrambler

An air cooled single that does the business and reminds you what motorbiking is all about.  Just you and the wind.  It’s light, engaging and charismatic.  I’m in even if I do have trouble connecting with the demographic they are aiming at.  Under all the marketing the Scrambler is a lovely little machine that does the business.

Urban Enduro $9995

A Honda Wander

Ah, to pretend to be Marquez…

I finally found KW Honda today!  It’s hidden around back of the big Honda car dealer peddling bland people movers.  If you head around back you find Repsol themed race bikes and jewel like VFRs.

On a much needed lunch break from Skills Ontario provincial championships with thousands of boisterous teenagers watching a few hundred wonderfully talented ones, I got some head space wandering through the Hondas.

The bike I longed for as a teenager was the VFR750, so I was hoping to find its spiritual successor at the Honda dealer, and I wasn’t disappointed.  

The white VFR800 they had on the floor was breathtaking.  The paint has a subtle pearl iridescence that gives it fantastic depth.  Every detail of the machine has a finished quality to it that I’ve found lacking in a lot of other bikes; it’s a bike worthy of desire.

Stealth fighter cool front end on the VFR800…

 

 











They had a number of older Hondas as well, including this astonishing 1970s CBX with a massive air cooled six in it!

If I had thirteen grand to throw around a VFR would be in the garage right quick.  Sitting on it, my legs are about as folded as the Concours, I’m leaned forward more but it’s a substantial bike, I don’t feel like a circus bear on it.


Neurology: Is it the car, or the car and driver?

We had board PD today (a 3 hour lecture).  It was a presentation on neurology in learning and layered curriculum by Kathie Nunley.  I’m generally a fan of a nuanced scientific approach to human activity (as opposed to a simplistic approach to things that usually support buying something).  Dr. Nunley’s neurological approach to education offered a number of insights to what we’re doing wrong.  If we don’t consider biological imperatives in learning we will never be as efficient as we might be.


There was a moment where I came to the end of neurological approach and the ‘ol philosophy degree kicked in.  Nunley had a slide stressing the importance of the appearance of choice in learning.  She stressed how engaging it is for students when they feel like they can choose their learning.

My knee jerk response was that this was manipulation, which led me down a metaphysical rabbit hole.

Neuroscience, because it’s looking at the brain, comes dangerously close to itemizing our sentience.  It also tends to reduce multi-dimensional complexity into simplistic linearity.  This idea that the appearance of choice would prompt more efficient learning would encourage any right minded teacher to manipulate their students into thinking they have learning choice in order to harness better retention.  No right minded teacher should be manipulating anyone into anything.

An analogy immediately came to mind.  Is neuroscience the car or the car and driver?  On a neuroscientific level our minds are very complex mechanical devices.  Our actions are driven by a brain developed from millennia of evolution.  There is no free-will, only complex autonomous reaction.  If that is what we are, you should have no trouble manipulating these processes to get a desired result, especially if it’s a good end.  School systems should treat the people in them like cogs in a machine, because that’s all they are.

If neurology is the study of the car then we can make immediate and scientifically informed choices that will improve its maintenance and operation.  As Nunley suggested in her presentation, dietary and developmental principles can be applied to maximize the functionality of our brains.  If neurology is the study of the car and driver then there is nothing else to consider.  In addition to the spiritual considerations that a number of people would find difficult to swallow, concepts like ethics or metaphysical ideals beyond the immediately knowable world of science (like honesty) may be ignored.  Neurology is the rational tool that justifies treating people like machines because that is all they are.

One of the reasons I like teaching technology is because students don’t get to work in imaginary value structures.  Those would be places where the science of neurology reigns supreme, where the teacher should manipulate students to lead them to success.  It’s where a 60% means you’ve done enough.  In the world of hands-on experience 60% is as useful as a zero.  If you don’t believe me have 60% of your next brake job done and see how that goes.

Teaching technology means I get to take students inured to reality after years of ‘learning’ in a school system and put them in close proximity to what is rather than what we wish.  Their discomfort is obvious.  They respond with comments like, “it didn’t work, but I tried real hard.  Do I get an A?”  No, you don’t, and reality is unimpressed with your intellectual resilience and general work ethic.  Thank goodness human value structures don’t decide everything. 

Fortunately, and despite our best efforts, we don’t live in a reality based on human value structures.  The large, unknowable universe that surrounds us makes itself felt constantly.   The tiny portion of reality we feel like we have a grip on because of science is only a gross approximation; mathematics and human ideas that roughly simulate reality enough to make crude use of it.  Science thinks in terms or breakthroughs and mastery, but neither actually happens.  Neuroscience offers us some useful insight into how brains function, but it is still far from understanding our minds; the driver is still safely out of their hands.

I tend toward moral absolutism.  One of the reasons I find science so agreeable is because it attempts to tell no lies, but in the case of neuroscience it seems to make some assumptions on how much it thinks it knows about being human.  Brains aren’t all we are, even though we use them as a lens to make sense of the world.

I’m going to take many of the suggestions around how to best maintain and maximize brain efficiency from this PD, but I’m not surrendering morality in the process.  If I’m going to give a student a choice it’s going to be a genuine choice because I believe those are superior to the appearance of choice.  In ways not immediately measurable I know that treating students and the subject I teach honestly creates the kind of fecundity that science is still having trouble quantifying.

A Stolen Weekend

About 340 kms over two days…

You know you’re cutting it close when you’re on your first two wheel road trip of the year and you ride into flurries.  Sunday was supposed to be fantastic, high teens Celsius and sunny, but we headed out on Saturday morning and found ourselves riding into a whiteout.

A bandit hat and some chemical hand warmers from
Shelburne Home Hardware saved the day!

We’d pulled into Shelburne after forty minutes on the bike frozen stiff.  Staggering in to Tim Hortons we both sat down and waited for our fingers to work so we could take off our helmets.  Half an hour later, after warming ourselves up on tea and grilled cheese, we crossed the road to the Home Hardware and got the last balaclava and some chemical hand warmers.  We hit the road and rode right into that whiteout, but at least we had warm hands.

As the snow swirled Max tucked in behind me and I tucked in behind the windshield.  The wind had been strong all morning but now with snow it was out to get us.  If accumulation began I was going to pull over, but as quickly as it appeared it blew off again, leaving us with frozen steel skies.  Ah, the joys of riding in Canada.

The plan was to head from the flat and boring grid of roads around us to where the pavement gets interesting.  The Niagara Escarpment is about forty five minutes away, so the plan was to get onto it in Horning’s Mills and then wind our way up to Collingwood on Georgian Bay where we had a room booked at the Georgian Manor.

There are twisty roads in Southern Ontario!  River Road out of Horning’s Mills is such a one.

Riding through the valley meant being out of the biting wind, but cutting back across the escarpment put us up on a ridge where the wind blasted us sideways.  It was with relief that we wound down next to Noisy River and into Creemore where we had poutine for lunch at The Old Mill House Pub right across the street from the Creemore Brewery.

Connie making Bavarian friends in Creemore.  KMW!

By the time we came out after lunch the sun had appeared and the temperature was up to a much more bearable eight degrees (we’re Canadian, 8°C is bearable).  We dropped in to the brewery (they do tours!) and wandered up the main street before getting back on the bike and heading north again.

This was our first trip on my new machine.  I’d sold the dependable, newer/first bike Ninja and purchased a 1994 Kawasaki Concours I’d found in a field.  Over the winter I’d taken it apart and put it back together again.  It had just passed safety the week before our trip.  Riding to Collingwood was my first chance to really get to know this much bigger but surprisingly athletic bike.  That it could manage the two of us with panniers and topbox full with no problems only underlined the fact that this bike is the best eight hundred bucks I’ve ever spent.

We continued to weave across the escarpment finally cresting Blue Mountain and rolling down into Collingwood at about 4pm.  The Georgian Manor Resort is one of those places that looked like it was really popular in the 1980s.  It has a past its prime kind of ex-Hollywood starlet feel to it.  What I do know is that Max and I had the pool and hot tub to ourselves, and boy did we need it.

We’d bagged the room for a hundred bucks for the night and used the heck out of it.  After a swim and a lay down we went for take out and then came back and had a picnic on the big bed.  We went for a late swim and then passed out early.  Our Sunday ride was beckoning and now that we’d warmed ourselves up and eaten some hot food we were ready for a good sleep.


The next morning we bailed on the free continental breakfast at the Manor after a friend facebooked saying they might hard sell us on a time-share.  That never happened (they were fantastic at the desk getting us in early and getting us out quickly on Sunday) but then we were on the road by 8am on Sunday morning.  We headed over to the Sunset Grill on Blue Mountain and had a fantastic and surprisingly affordable hot breakfast.


Astonishingly the runs were still open and skiers were squeezing a last day out of a long, cold winter.  Max and I stood there with our helmets and biking jackets watching people ski on the very wet snow.

After the resort we headed up and over the (Ontario sized) Blue Mountain…


The roads were empty and bone dry.  It was already warmer at 10am than it had been the day before.  The Concours was running like a Swiss watch and we were warm and loose in the saddle.  The back side of Blue Mountain is covered in apple orchards which led us to Thornbury, the home of one of the best cideries in Ontario.  We passed the cidery and stopped to check out the fish ladder and mill before having a long, slow coffee at Ashanti.

Ever noticed how everyone wants to stop and have a chat when you’re on a motorbike?  I’d already had an unrealistic amount of support from the clerk at Shelburne Home Hardware, the waitress in Creemore and the hotel concierge in Collingwood.  People seem to respond to your vulnerability by wanting to connect with you.  While sitting at the coffee shop a local photographer who was leading a group on a photographic tour of the town stopped to talk bikes (he didn’t have his out yet).  Another fellow told me about his 86 year old uncle who still rides his BMW everywhere.  A number of people assumed my big Kawi was a BMW on this trip.  I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

After our coffee break we rode down to the still frozen harbour in Thornbury and spent a few minutes watching the fisherman fish and the boat owners doing maintenance, all while ice broke off from the shore and floated out into the bay.

We then saddled up and took a winding, scenic ride down through Beaver Valley to Flesherton.  After another stop to stretch we jumped on the Connie and thundered south across the never ending farm fields toward home.

The Concours was flawless.  It fired up immediately and ran perfectly.  I’m astonished at how well it handles when I’m out on it alone, but even more astonishing is how well it handles with full panniers and top box and my son on the back.  The suspension is light years beyond the hard ride of the Ninja, and the big motor swallows miles with ease.  Sometimes, if you get off the gas suddenly you can get a bit of a belch out of the motor.  Not a backfire, but a nice pop out of the exhaust.  The bike toodles along around 3500rpm at 100km/hr and leaps down the road if you twist the throttle.

Heading out this early in the season meant we got home and there wasn’t a single bug splat anywhere.  That won’t be the case on future trips.  Canada goes from snow season to bug season pretty quickly, but in between we stole a weekend and got to know and love the new bike.

Creating Paint Decals For a Motorcycle

With weather like this,
who needs enemies?

I’ve been floored with a wicked stomach flu the past couple of days, but I had enough in me today to get the last of the painting done and finish assembling the Concours.  It’s safetied, insured and ready to launch.


As expected, Canada isn’t cooperating.  I’m hoping I can go for a short jaunt on Monday, but otherwise the week is looking pretty dismal for riding.

The finishing touch was my first go at a stencil on a bike.  I tried paper, then plastic film with no luck (it lifted off the compound curves of the fairing), but eventually created a sticky template using printable stickers.  Some research suggested that frisket film would have been ideal, but it’s expensive and hard to find.  Another alternative is transfer tape.  Having said all that, printing your design on sticker worked well and what it did leave behind was easy to clean off.

After printing a design, I exacto-knifed the text out and then put the stickers on the bike.  A few light coats of spray and the sticker came off with no problems.  Now that I’ve got the hang of it, creating layered decals should be a pretty straight forward process.  Finishing them with my preferred clear coat seals the whole thing up and gives it an even surface.

The Concours came to me with all sorts of cracks on the right side fairing (it had obviously been tipped over at some point).  The previous owner had done a pretty good job of reattaching everything with plastic weld, but it would never be perfect.

Rather than trying to hide those imperfections, I remembered a kind of Japanese pottery I once saw in Tokyo.  Kintsugi (金継ぎ) literally translates as ‘golden joinery‘.  It’s a form of pottery that, rather than hiding the blemishes caused by age, emphasizes them by using gold to seal the cracks.

What I’ve done with my old Kawasaki is highlight those cracks in gold and put the kanji for kintsugi on there.  She should be proud of those cracks.  Twenty years of living in Canada will give you wrinkles, they should be celebrated.




Tragic Emptiness, New Possibilities

…and then there was one.

The Ninja was gone in six days, sold the first weekend I had it up for sale.  If you’re looking to move your bike, prep it for spring and wait for the temperatures to promise spring, you’ll have a quick sale.

I was asking $3900, but figured it would need some work done to safety, so I had a $500 cushion in there.  It went for $3200 as is, no extra cost on my part.  I’m happy with that, I bought it for $3500 safetied two years ago and put four thousand miles on it.

I’ve spent the last couple of days putting time into the Concours, getting it ready for launch…


I need to put some miles on this bike so I can begin believing that I can trust it.  I took it around the block today to warm up the final drive before changing out the fluid – that’s the last fluid change on the bike, everything is new and synthetic now.

Around the block to warm up the final drive oil, and now it’s changed with synthetic.  First time in that new jacket and
helmet too.  Both feel like quality compared to the bargain basement stuff I started with.

I’m still wandering around online looking at a very different second bike.  The KLX250 is on my short list now after seeing that one with a big bore kit.  We did our bike course on Yamaha 250s and I loved how light and flickable they were.  Having a small enduro would be the night and day difference I’d be looking for in having two bikes, not to mention it’d be very cheap to run.  If I had five grand laying about, I’d chuck it at a new one.

I suspect the Concours will need more TLC than the Ninja did, but if it turns out to be pretty bullet proof, a second bike with character could be this interesting ‘70s Yamaha.  I’d be able to get my scrambler vibe on with that!


Arduinos, Galileos & Edisons

Students create astonishing work with Arduino.
Instead of electronics being something that is
done to them, Arduino lets them author their
relationship with electronics.

I’m a big fan of the Arduino microcontroller.  This tiny, inexpensive board plugs into your computer via a usb cable and lets you create circuits for lights, sounds, sensors or pretty much anything else you can think of.  You then write (or paste) some simple code into a window on your computer and send it to the board to have the lights flash, or music play, or have sensors sense.

As an introduction to how circuits work it doesn’t get much better.  Because the coding you’re doing has immediate physical results, it also makes for a tangible, tactile introduction to programming too.  You can find arduino boards for about ten bucks a pop.  With another five bucks in LEDs, wiring and other bits and pieces, you’ve got a basic electronics and coding lab that suits both tactile and non-tactile learners.  You could put together a comprehensive class set for the price of a single iMac.  If your school is chucking any electronics, suddenly you find yourself recycling lasers out of cdroms and wiring out of computers to expand your collection.

Since Arduino is open source, a variety of support programs have popped up around it.  Fritzing helps students create professional looking wiring plans, and 123d Circuits lets you create virtual Arduino projects before you plug in a single wire.  If you’re wondering how tricky Arduino might be for younger students, 123d Circuits would be a great way to test feasibility for free.

My favorite part of Arduino comes after the introduction (we use Oomlout’s fantastic ARDX introduction projects.  Students work through these and get familiar with how the Arduino works and the many components it can work with.  The real magic comes when they see how easy it is to try things on Arduino.  The summative for the unit is a self directed project where students are encouraged to experiment, fail and document what they’re doing.  It’s a great introduction to the engineering process and, for many students, the first time they are rewarded for failure at school (just know why it didn’t work and find a way forward – the engineering process is intellectual resilience codified).

We’ve recently expanded our electronics ecosystem by getting a couple of super-Arduinos.  Intel has thrown its might behind the open source movement and created a couple of very interesting Arduino related products.

The unboxing of our Galileo created a big stir
amongst the senior computer technology students.


The Intel Galileo is an Arduino board on steroids.  With 
Microsoft also throwing itself behind this, you can actually have a version of Windows running on the Galileo!  We’ve already done so much with the Arduino, I can’t wait to see what we can put together with the Galileo.

The size of an SD card, the Edison is tiny & powerful






The Intel Edison is the other experimental piece of kit we just got in yesterday.  It’s the size of an SD card, but is a multi-core computer with built in wifi and bluetooth.  This tiny Edison is at the heart of the Nixie drone – an astonishing wearable/flyable drone camera that looks like magic.

Both the Galileo and the Edison are about $100 (about 10x the cost of a basic Arduino board), so we’re going to see if they are ten times as awesome.  I suspect they will both tax senior computer tech students as they try and understand what these new boards can do.

There hasn’t been an easier time to get into basic electronics.  With the open source movement creating lush ecosystems of compatible components, you’ll find it easier than ever to put tangible electronics experiences in front of students.  In a world where electronics are something being done to society, wouldn’t it be nice to teach students how to author that influence?