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

What 2020 Taught Me

This is the fifth attempt at this post.  Sometimes, reflecting your way out of dark place professionally takes some iteration.  Previous attempts ended up heaping frustration on top of frustration until it seemed overwhelming again – not the best way to resolve a metaphysical crisis even if it is all true.  I’m not the smartest, most upwardly mobile educator in the world, but I know my craft and I’m good at getting students to express their talents.  I’m also effective under fire and can always find a way to get back on my feet again when the going gets tough.  This year has been a test of that resilience and at times it has broken me, but reflecting on a year where Ontario education has lost the plot more than once has me thinking about a Banksy piece:

I’ve been tempted to leave education a few times over the past year for pastures less politically misdirected, but I genuinely enjoy my work, recognize its social importance and don’t want to walk away while my profession has forgotten its primary purpose in a fog of political misdirection and pandemic panic.  Education matters.  It matters even more in a crisis.  That’s a simple truth 2020 has taught me.  What else has this epically crappy year taught me?


LESSON 1:  The people running ‘the system’ aren’t focused on pedagogy, they’re focused on making it run (at all costs, even if it makes people sick or abuses their lack of privilege)

I’ve known this since I got thrown under the bus for handling my mother’s suicide too slowly, but 2020 has reminded me of systemic intent by shining a harsh light inside the process.  From taking multiple pay cuts to protect student learning in January while admin sat in empty schools collecting salary, to watching the system lurch back into the classroom unprepared in September, 2020 has shown that the most important thing to people running Ontario education is making a schedule and then ensuring it happens.  Pedagogy and equity might come up in the marketing material, but action around it is non-existent.  Threaten the schedule though and you’ll get an immediate reaction.

This came into focus in November when we watched Ontario Education Workers United’s live webcast on how to stop the ‘pedagogically impoverished‘ hybrid/simultaneous online and face to face learning model.  I’ve had a go at this unsustainable and problematic smoke screen of an approach on Dusty World previously.  There was a great deal of dissonance in listening to educational experts like Doctor Beyhan Farhadi talking about pedagogy when the system itself seems to have turned its back on it entirely.

Our absurd pandemic teaching approach reduces in-class instruction to less than half the normal face to face instructional time while making no changes to curriculum expectations because it’s important to retain the appearance of credibility.  Actual pedagogical credibility, let alone equity, compassion and even teacher burnout doesn’t appear to be a consideration unless it’s an email or newsletter – board newsletters have proliferated this year.  2020 has taught me that the system must run at all costs – even at the cost of the people it serves.

Our broken pandemic teaching models also demand that teachers be simultaneously teaching online and face to face to two different groups of students simultaneously all day every day while throwing about a month’s worth of material at students each week.  It’s doing this having cancelled face to face special education support which has led to even further inequity in the classroom.  It’s an approach that has hurt my son directly.  Listening to parents of students with IEPs begging for support and compassion is heart breaking.  I’m going to make a point of honouring that need even if the system appears to be deaf to these calls for help.

The paradigm shifting moment during that OEWU webcast was a Toronto teacher and union activist who approached the fight from a very pragmatic angle.  She said (and I’m paraphrasing), that the system is only interested in making sure the system works and if you want it to take notice you have to stop if from working.  Killing yourself to make a bad system run and then complaining about it isn’t an effective approach.  System administration will only pay attention to you if you stop the system from functioning.  I’m not sure where to take that truth in 2021, but it’s something to keep in mind if you see systemic abuse occurring and want to stop it.

The Ministry mandated full day of racism training we got in September prior to starting an unprecedented change in schooling feels more like a smokescreen rather than any kind of genuine attempt at addressing inequity.  Trot out a day of racism training (entirely delivered by ‘woke’ white women) and then execute a schedule designed to suit privilege while crushing students who don’t have it.

2020 has taught me to see actions, not words, as the real barometer of an institution’s intent.


LESSON 2:  “This isn’t elearning, it’s emergency remote learning”

A wise colleague said this in one of our earliest online remote meetings and it changed my mind about how to teach in a pandemic.  My reaction in a crisis is to display initiative and work to help people, but systemic paralysis was followed by a lurch into elearning with zero support and then a series of baffling changes of direction by the Ministry in terms of what technology we can use.


Ontario’s experiment in remote learning ended when Stephen Lecce came on one Friday afternoon and told students across the province that marks don’t matter in remote learning, which has established a culture of irrelevance in remote learning that continues.  We aren’t supposed to grade any learning that happens remotely and many teachers have given up on it entirely due to poor student engagement.  The system’s zero support is ongoing – we’ve been given no PD or even time to redesign the entire curriculum for remote learning on the fly.  The metaphor of building a plane in the air hasn’t changed, and we’re going back to full remote learning tomorrow.  How do you think that will fly?

2020 has taught me that curriculum is less important than student and staff welfare. It’s a pity the people in charge only pitch wellness emails at this ongoing mental health crisis, but as a classroom teacher my ever shrinking sphere of control still allows me to address it with my  particular students, and I intend to.  While other teachers are crushing students (especially the ones with IEPs) in a desperate quest for academic credibility in a system that’s only pretending to have it, I shall not.  This involves differentiating, which is another one of those pedagogical best practices we’ve burned to the ground during this crisis.

Some students, like myself, want to be engaged and kept busy lest they go mad with frustration!  For those students I will offer the variation and enrichment I’ve always pursued (yes, even in a pandemic), but for the vast majority less is their new normal.  For this group (which includes many teachers), being gentle is more important than being productive.  2020 has taught me that for the majority of people, when the going gets tough, waiting to be told what to doing as little as possible is the way forward.  It doesn’t bode well for a future bulging with ever increasing overpopulation in a limited ecosystem, but it’s the world our systemic myopia has brought us to.

2020 has taught me that pushing broken people only breaks them more, so I won’t be doing that even if the system demands it.

This is indeed emergency remote teaching.  It isn’t a ‘new normal’ and we shouldn’t all be waving flags proclaiming, ‘I got this’.  What we should be doing is looking after the children in our care, supporting their families and our colleagues and making sure that everyone is alright instead of pretending that everything is business as usual.  We can always learn what we missed on the other side of this.  Meanwhile, we’re getting strident ‘you have to provide blah blah minutes of synchronous instruction online‘ directives as we return to our second bout of emergency remote teaching.

There are too many system-people hanging on too tight that need to unclench.  I realize that this is being driven by a sabotaged Ministry, but enforcing it makes you complicit in it.  I’m going to look after my little patch (even the ones with special needs!) and push back if my student wellbeing first approach isn’t deemed appropriate by the powers that be.


LESSON 3:  Most people just want to be told what to do, even in a crisis…

My first instinct in a crisis is to show initiative and try to act in a way that helps, but the system thinkers don’t want you doing that, they want you to fall in line and do what you’re told.  This is problematic for me as my raison d’être in teaching is my agency as a teacher.  When the best I can hope from the system is benign neglect I can get a lot done in my immediate space, but when the system is in crisis it insinuates itself into my classroom and this is infuriating.  If I wanted to give up my idealism I’d go into management.


I’m able to do what I do in the classroom because I have agency.  One of the reasons I enjoy classroom teaching is because I have the latitude to make decisions that aim at the highest ideals and see them through without having to water them down.  In a crisis it seems that systems clamp down on individual agency and demand compliance.  My issue with that is that I’ve never done the bare minimum, always do excessively more and my students benefit from that in many ways.  I refuse do my job in an online lockstep of systemic expectations, especially if they’re designed for marketing a fiction of a full school experience during a pandemic that is preventing exactly that.  I have no interest in misleading people, most especially my students.


Not all teachers are above-and-beyonders, but I gotta tell ya, the vast majority are.  You’d be hard pressed to find a single teacher in my school that doesn’t do extracurriculars and work on the weekend.  Given some latitude they’ll do more than the minimum simply because they are professionals.  2020 has taught me that I don’t necessarily want to leave the classroom, but I would like to work for a system that recognizes my professionalism and honours it instead of treating me like an errant child.

Many people want to be told what to do and wait for that direction.  You’d think that would change in a crisis but it seems to intensify.  I’ve occasionally had leaders who recognize my need for action and honour it, but they are a minority.  I suspect this is a control issue for most.  Many people find invasive and systemic control a comfort, but for some it feels like strangulation.

Reading Matt Crawford’s latest book, Why We Drive, this fall while I was getting waterboarded at work taught me how to differentiate to students in a crisis by recognizing the need for human agency in an increasingly automated world.  Some people need clear direction and eased expectations while others want to exercise their agency and do something to help.  I only hope that the people running things recognize that.  We could get a lot more done if the doers weren’t being strangled by system lockstep thinking; we need to do much more than we are.

***

We’re about to step back into emergency remote learning after the mid-winter break, which hasn’t been much of a break at all.  Everyone looks grey, stressed out and exhausted.  We are probably not even half way through this pandemic marathon but I’m not about to let it diminish my professional scope.  My classroom will recognize that my students might be providing daycare for their siblings or working to support parents who have lost their jobs.  Others may live in rural locations with spotty internet or might be trying to do remote learning on ancient or poorly working technology that they only have occasional access to.  The school system likes to ignore these issues while sternly demanding full days of remote synchronous instruction.  I’m not going to demand that because I have no interest in maintaining a vicious government’s fiction of business as usual in the classroom.  What I am going to do is help where I can, give each student what they need to feel like they’re achieving something (anything) in this crisis, and make sure the ones who want to do more have the tools and material to create the agency they crave at a time of forced helplessness.  If everyone wakes up the next day feeling recognized and enabled then that’s a sound pedagogical goal.

Personally?  2020 taught me not to throw myself into the massive gap between the system’s failure to do what it should and what my students need, because it’s unsustainable.  I’m not helping anyone if I hurt myself trying to make up for the lack of vision demonstrated by the thousands of people ‘above’ me on the org chart.  I’ll read my Tao Te Ching and follow Lao Tsu’s advice and withdraw when my work is done.  2020 has taught me that the system will happily let me burn myself out attempting to resolve its shortcomings.

To hold and fill a cup to overflowing Is not as good as to stop in time.
Sharpen a sword edge to its very sharpest, And the (edge) will not last long.
When gold and jade fill your hall, You will not be able to keep them.
To be proud with honour and wealth Is to cause one’s own downfall.
withdraw as soon as your work is done. Such is Heaven’s Way.


2020 also taught me that the education system’s academic focus is a fiction we all tell ourselves to justify its existence, but it’s actually much more foundational than that.  The deeper truth is that the system should be less about curriculum and more about equity and inclusion.  Public education is one of our best tools for socially enabling everyone to become their best selves.  If we approached this pandemic by differentiating our expectations and working from a place of compassion and inclusion instead of fake academic integrity we’d do more good and teach students about things that genuinely matter, like kindness.  Ultimately, education should be about recognizing individual needs and enabling students to express their best selves, the rest is paperwork.

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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?

Motorcycle Diaries: Win Your 2020 Dream Ride

Motorcycle Diaries is a website that shares rides from people from around the world.  I’ve posted a number of Ontario specific rides on there.  They currently have a 2020 Dream Ride contest going on until April 30th, so here’s my pitch.


My Moto-Bio:

I didn’t come to motorcycling until later in life. When I was very young, maybe six years old?  I was at my grandparent’s house in Sheringham, Norfolk in England one spring Saturday morning in 1975 when a group of vintage vehicles passed by on what was probably a rally.  I was the little blond kid standing on the railings by the side of the road waving at them as they thundered by, and many of them made a point of smiling and waving back, including a guy on a Triumph Speed Twin.  It was one of those flashbulb moments you never forget.  Nothing looked cooler than that bike and rider thrumming through the receding sea mist in the cool morning air.

Years later after immigrating to Canada, I was finally old enough to start considering driving and I immediately gravitated towards motorcycles, but my mother was strangely insistent that I not do that.   Even though we weren’t well off my parents dug deep to help get me a car instead.  I got deep into cars owning a wide variety of vehicles, learning how to repair them and even pursuing performance driving courses and cart racing while living in Japan, but that bike itch was always there.

After my mum’s suicide I discovered that my great aunt, with whom she shared a name, was an avid rider who was killed in a motorcycle accident a few years before I was born.  I also discovered that my mum’s dad, who I was very close with growing up in Norfolk, was also an avid motorcyclist up until the death of his sister, which must have rocked the family since no one had even mentioned her to me.  I’ve never understood how an accident like that (an army truck accidentally pulled out into her, killing her instantly) warranted this kind of silence, but my mum’s side of the family has always been… interesting.

Despite being a major part of the previous generation’s lives, motorcycling had evidently became a taboo subject that left me ignorant to a deleted great aunt who I now feel a great affinity for and a love of my granddad’s, who I thought I knew well.


I’ve been riding now since 2014 and I’m on my seventh bike.  I’ve taken multiple advanced off road training courses and done some long, international trips, including a trip to the last MotoGP race at Indianapolis that had us ripping down the back straight of the historic Brick Yard on our own bikes – mine being an $800 field find I’d restored in my garage.

I’ve made a point of expanding my familiarity with different bikes by renting them and riding in places ranging from Pacific tsunami zones to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, usually with my son on the back.  We’ve had some great adventures.  I’ve also made a point of becoming mechanically proficient with motorcycles, having just finished my latest restoration.

That’s my bio.  Here’s the dream ride:

In discovering my family history around motorcycling I also connected my grandfather’s rather incredible Second World War tour of duty to riding where, among other things, he served in the RAF’s motorbike stunt team.


Bill served as an MP in the RAF and travelled with the British Expeditionary Force to France in 1939 in order to repel the oncoming Nazi war machine.  When it all went wrong, Bill ended up trapped in occupied France for a number of weeks after Dunkirk before eventually finding his way back to the UK just in time to catch planes that fell out of the sky during the Battle of Britain.  He then went on to fight in Africa for several years, but it’s his time in France during the ‘Phoney War‘ during the disastrous Battle of France and the allied retreat that is the basis for my dream ride.

After some exhaustive research I discovered Bill’s path through France from the autumn of 1939 to the spring of 1940.  My dream ride would be to follow in my granddad’s footsteps on a period motorcycle through Northern France in the springtime, just as Bill did.





From letters to my grandmother and military records, I discovered that Bill was attached to RAF Squadron 73 who operated across Normandy and up to near the Belgian border over the winter of the Phoney War before being chased south under fire around Paris and through Ruaudin and Saint Nazaire before he finally found a boat back to Plymouth out of Brest, nearly two months after Dunkirk.  In the process he failed to get to the Lancastria with the rest of his squadron, the majority of whom died on it as it was sunk by dive bombers in Saint-Nazaire.


Being able to follow Bill’s chaotic retreat with his squadron through France while finding evidence of the great conflict and seeing things he saw between moments of terror and heartache, and doing it on an RAF Norton H16 or a period Triumph Speed Twin would be a heart wrenching and mind blowing experience that would connect me back to a forgotten piece of family history on a number of levels.


What a dream ride that would be.

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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:

http://ift.tt/2foVjAW
http://ift.tt/1XixINJ
http://ift.tt/1aUeBGc
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http://ift.tt/2foVlc2

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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!


A Bits & Bytes Reboot

 Hello TVO,

I’m active on Teach Ontario and my wife has been a regional councillor with you; we’re both big supporters of TVO.

A long time ago as a 10 year old new immigrant to Canada in the early 1980s I came across Bits & Bytes as I was teaching myself how computers worked.  This became a career in IT that has since morphed into a career in education where I’ve coached students in my small town to national championships in Skills Canada and ICTC’s CyberTitan Student Cybersecurity Competition.

I frequently write about the dearth of computer skills in the education system and society at large.  This one from 2017 is a good exampleThe article that kicked off that blog post offers a staggeringly dark view of digital fluency not just in Canada but around the world.  We have all become increasingly dependent on computer technology while simultaneously wallowing in ignorance around how it all works.

I think back to how Bits & Bytes influenced a whole generation of Ontarians to take on this emerging technology and think it’s time for a reboot.  If we’re going to plug our children into networks for their learning and live our lives in digital spaces then we all need to have a basic understanding of how these digital technologies work or we’re inviting abuse and manipulation.  ICT (information and communications technology) is now considered a critical infrastructure by the government of Canada, yet most Canadians are essentially illiterate in it even as they come to depend on it more and more.

If you ever decide to put together a B&B reboot and are looking for people to work on it I’m all in.  TVO’s mandate is to transform learning through digital technology, but if we don’t understand that technology then we’re nothing more than easily manipulated consumers of it.  Addressing this illiteracy would also raise Ontario’s place on an increasingly interconnected world stage.  Bring back Bits & Bytes 21st Century Edition and help educate Ontarians on the technology we’re all living our lives through!

Sincerely,

Tim King

Elora, ON

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