Snow Garage

The snow’s flying.  I like watching Waiting out the Winter for some inspiration at this time of year:



WAITING OUT WINTER from Andrew David Watson on Vimeo.

I did my own less cool and moody version of it here:



I’m beginning to see why I’m sore after doing a few hours in the garage.  I’m all over the place!  The Tiger has new oil and filter and has been cleaned and coated and is now living under a blanket until the weather comes back to us.  The battery’s in the basement on a smart charger.



In the process of cleaning up I noticed a missing rubber on the bottom of the seat.  Gotta figure out how to get that, the cracked rubbers on the mirrors and the rubber thing that covers the rear brake wiring.  






The Tiger’s going on fourteen years old.  Fourteen years in Canada means wild swings in temperature.  The rubbers need renewing.  There’s a winter project.

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Motorcycle Things: Winter ’17 Wishlist

A motorcycle wish list circa 2017:



Jon Campbell on Google+ shared updated colours on the Aerostich line of motorcycle clothing.  I’ve always loved the look of Aerostich kit.  Unfortunately, a Roadcrafter suit costs more than most of the motorcycles I’ve purchased.  


One of these days I’ll get the coin together and spring for an Aerostich one piece suit.  By all accounts it’ll be the last time I need to.  


They have lots of custom options so I should be able to find a long in the body, regular inseam that fits me properly.  With colour choices aplenty, making an original looking suit that fits is an ongoing pastime.


***


Keeping with the orange kit theme, I’m also wishing for a go with the updated Desmo RO32 transformable helmet.  Quieter, more comfortable and more spacious, it’s my go-to Desmo helmet evolved.  Short of buying one from overseas untried, I’m stuck.  If we end up in France this summer, a trip to Roof might be in the cards through.


***

With the Tiger’s winter maintenance done, I’m hoping to return focus to the Concours ZG1000 Fury streetfighter I’ve got half finished.  


On the to-do list is getting a rear light and indicators.  I’d ordered them through Amazon but the dodgy Chinese company that makes them never evidently sent it, though they charged me for it.  The Amazon marketplace seems to be increasingly filled with overseas companies that have a very slow delivery time, assuming they ship at all.


It’d be nice to get this running smoothly by the summer for some blistering solo rides where I finally get to find out what those new Michelin tires feel like.  In a perfect world I’d enjoy the summer on it, ride it to the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Toronto next September where someone offers to buy it for what it cost me to make it.  I could then role that over into next winter’s project.


***

A couple of road trips this summer would be nice.  I’ve had a trip around Lake Superior in mind for a while now.  It’s about 2000kms around from Manitoulin Island and back again, and another couple of hundred kilometres and a ferry ride home.


Launching from Little Current at the north end of Manitoulin, I’d go the Ontario side first just to avoid the misery that is the border crossing into Michigan at The Sault.  After sitting at that for almost two hours last year, I’ll go backwards around Superior just to avoid it.  Doing 350km/days on average, we’d get around Superior in about six days.  If we wanted a day off, we could push for a couple of days to get a day of rest.  A day up to Manitoulin and a day back at the end means eight days on the road.


A trip down the Appalachians to see the full solar eclipse this summer is also on the short list.  Doing this one for ten days means we’d have a couple of days to explore areas on the way down and on the way back instead of making miles every day.


From just over the border in New York state all the way down to Tennessee, this is motorcycle nirvana with mile after mile of twisting mountain roads.


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Racer5 is running their introduction to track riding again this year.  A May long weekend getting familiar with the racing dynamics of a motorcycle would be pretty wicked.  By the end of the course I’d be qualified to race.  The next step would be getting myself into the VRRA for some vintage racing.

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I never get bored of imagining throwing a few grand down on some motorcycle racing gear.  My two pairs of Alpinestar boots have been excellent, so I’d probably base a lot of the racing gear on what they offer.  I’d read reviews of the Handroid Knox racing gloves and they sound totally next level.  An Arai helmet has always been a long term, top end motorcycle helmet wishlist item, and they have a nice Isle of Man special out this year.


***

A track-day specialist bike would also be nice to have tucked away, only to be trailered to the track for hard work.   This ’99 CBR600 F4 is well cared for and going for about three grand.   I’d strip it down to bare essentials and put a carbon single seat cowling on the back.  After wearing out the tires on it, I’d go to racing tires and continue to evolve the bike into a track specialist.


***

Guy Martin did a race in his Ford Transit van last year where he averaged well over 100mph for an extended length of time.  I wouldn’t spend much time in one the other side of 100mph, but having a van would sure be handy.  From transporting my own bikes out of the snow for a cheap ride in the winter, to taking the race bike to the track, having a bike transport system would be mega.  With taxes, a new one nicely spec-ed out is just north of fifty thousand of your finest Canadian dollars.


***


Some top shelf gear, getting race ready and having the custom Kawasaki on the road… if I came into cash in 2017, that’s what I’d be spending it on.

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Texas Meandering & a Better Idea

While the ice-storm of certain doom forms outside, I’m watching Qatar qualifying and daydreaming about making a MotoGP race this year.  The only one on my continent runs in a few weeks in Texas.  This has me reviewing my Texas Ironbutt dreams.

I’d originally gone for an Ironbutt on the way down and a shorter finish up the next day.  If I could push the limits I could condensify it even further (making it more excitingly possible!).



It’s just short of a twenty-four hour ride to Texas from here.  An early wake-up Friday and I could do the Ironbutt to late Friday night (60mph avg for 17 hours 4am-9pm would do it).  The last five hundred miles after an early wake up should get me to Austin on Saturday by about 2pm… just in time for qualifying.  A good sleep Saturday night and then I’m at the race Sunday.  It wraps up about 4pm.  A good push to 10pm should put me a third of the way back, I could finish up the rest on Monday.  In theory, only two days off work!






I could fly down and back if I was loaded, but a quick look around found a flight out of Detroit (4 hour drive away) leaving Friday at 10:30am and getting in to Austin just before 3pm.  Flying out of the local airport meant layovers and a long time waiting.

I found a KTM 390 Duke to rent for the four days from Lone Star Moto Rentals.  I think i could fit riding gear in carry on luggage, so there’d be no waiting for luggage and I could be in and out of the airports quickly enough.  With the bike rental, hotels and flights I’d be looking at about $3000.

By comparison the ride down would be $1000 in hotels, $200 in gas and I wouldn’t be herded onto a plane at any point.  Call me perverse but were I to go, I’d ride down.







Having said all that, I’d rather spend a thousand bucks on Racer5’s introductory track riding program. I could buy some quality race kit that’d do for years and still come in at less than this abbreviated weekend. It’d be nice to see the MotoGP boys doing their thing again, but short of an unlimited budget it doesn’t make much sense.

Riding the Dufferin Highlands & Beating Up a 360 Camera

A colleague‘s retirement party at the far end of our school board meant an excuse to ride over an hour each way to the Dufferin County Museum, scenically perched atop the highest point in Southern Ontario.  It also happens to be within ten minutes of two of my favourite semi-local rides (there is nothing closer with any twisties).


I rode over to Orangeville and then down Hockley Valley Road.  We’re getting over a flood, and the Hockley River was eating its own banks where ever I saw it.  The ride up Airport Road into the highlands was very green and equally floody.  The retirement party was unique in that more than 50% of the speeches weren’t tedious and so filled with inside jokes that only the speaker thinks them funny – with a few exceptions I wasn’t bored with the speeches, which never happens.


I didn’t take any photos on the way out, but I met my wife at the party and then we thought we might go over to the Terra Nova Public House for dinner, but they had nearly an hour wait on a Friday Night, so we aimed elsewhere.  The Mono Cliff’s Inn was both immediately welcoming and only ten minutes away over the glacial moraines of the Niagara Escarpment.


This time I kept the Ricoh Theta handy and took photos as we went into the setting sun:







After a great appetizer smorgasbord in the unique atmosphere of the bar downstairs at the MCI we headed home in the twilight.  I wasn’t expecting much out of the Theta camera in the dying light, but as it has before, it exceeded my expectations:









By this point the light is all but gone and I’m beating up on the Theta.  A fixed lens fully automatic camera, 360° or not, struggles to manage low light, so this isn’t where the Theta was designed to work, but it still does a credible job.  It’s all but dark out when I take the last photo while travelling under the power lines.  I had to beat it up in photoshop a bit to restore some sharpness, but sometimes going with the blur gives you a painted feel to a photo which can give it an abstract feel.  Photography doesn’t have to be all about focus.


You can do quite a lot with the desktop software that comes with the Theta,but there are some special formatting options in the online version that are cool.  The Tiny Planet view in the online viewer is probably my favourite.  The embedded image at the bottom lets you see the whole photo in the raw.

The original

Some Photoshop on the original
Alternative photoshop a bit closer to the natural light

This is the original image in the online software.  If you click on the mirror ball icon and then tiny planet you’ll see where I got the still images above.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

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Motorcycle Photography







Some recent photos that caught my eye from the digital motorcycle magazine and book realm.

Adventure Bike Rider is pretty ace with the off the beaten path photos.  BIKE magazine does the business as well.

One of ABR’s more extreme trips: Germans riding in Oman

Riding in Borneo

 

Ducati Scrambler… vroom vroom!

How rim size matters… courtesy of  Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques….
so far an accessible and in depth look at all aspects of motorcycle riding and vehicle dynamics

ABR does nice photography!

Kawasaki’s 600cc supercharged maybe

Riding the Alps

BIKE magazine at the Bol D’Or, 2015

The new Ninja

Riding in Nepal

Photos from the Winter Road

These are some video screen grabs from the long way home commute from work last week.  Windy and cool, but still up near ten degrees Celsius with bright, winter sunshine.  The roads were relatively sand and salt free thanks to days of rain and floods.  The Ricoh Theta 360 camera is wrapped around the mirror with a Gorilla Pod.  A 360 video clip to start off followed by some photoshop post production…


 


All the screen grabs with various modifications can be found in this album.


If you’re looking for a motorcycle friendly camera, the Theta 360 has push button controls that are easy to use (most others have finicky wireless connections through a smartphone).  You don’t have to aim it or focus it, it just grabs everything in an instant.  The screen grabs on here are from the 1080 video the Theta made while attached to the rear view mirror.

My last ride was November 28th, so this was a soul destroying thirteen weeks between rides.  I really need to find somewhere twelve months a year motorcycle friendly.  There’s another bucket list goal:  live somewhere where I can ride for an entire year without having to take three miserable months off.


On the upside, it won’t be 13 weeks until I’m riding again…

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NCK Cycle Salvage

I took a nice, long autumn ride through long shadows and cool setting sunlight to NCK Cycle Salvage in Woodstock, Ontario this afternoon.


Google Maps was determined me to walk me through the middle of Kitchener-Waterloo in the middle of rush hour and then along a 401 covered in construction.  I forced it to route me around the population and construction, which Google Maps took to mean sending me down increasingly small back roads until I was riding through a deep, dark forest tinged crimson with fall colours on a rutted, dirt road.  I think at one point I was being chased by a pack of wolves, but hey, I never once sat in traffic.

I eventually wound my way down to Woodstock and found NCK in the west end of town in an industrial estate.  I used to do a lot of work on cars, so  I was expecting something like a breaker’s yard with bikes laying out in the weather.  I was once told by an old motorcyclist that bikes don’t last well in the weather because, unlike cars, they don’t have a cover;  NCK agrees with that biker wisdom.

I was worried that the carburetors I was picking up for the Fireblade project were going to be rusty and nasty, but instead they look almost brand new – far better than the battered carbs the muppet who owned the Honda before me had molested.


I was surprised at how organized and dense NCK’s layout was.  Nathan, the son of the original owner, is in the process of taking on the family business which has been running in Woodstock since the early ’90s.  He took me on a quick tour and explained NCK’s process.  They dismantle and warehouse parts as bikes come in.  I asked about the lack of European bikes, but Nathan said they tend to either be repaired or written off, whereas Japanese bikes are more common and less expensive, so that’s where the spares market is.  They often get bikes from dealers who don’t want an inexpensive bike cluttering up their showroom.  Where possible they sell the bike on complete, when it isn’t possible they dismantle the bike, check the parts in to inventory and keep everything organized in their dense, 5000+ square foot warehouse.  That inventory system is what allowed Nathan to immediately get back to me with confirmation of the parts I needed when every other motorcycle salvage operation in Ontario was radio silent.

Support a local business indeed!  Nathan is the second generation running NCK out of Woodstock, Ontario.  If your only experience with junkyards is piles of rotting cars in a field, NCK will show you how it’s done efficiently and with the needs of motorcycles front of mind.  This ain’t no field of rusty wrecks.

Since it’s all inside, you’re not getting rusty, rained on left overs and the parts look like they’ve actually been looked after (because they have).  We had a walk through the warehouse and I got to see the next project they’re working on, an originally painted mid-70s Yamaha air cooled big twin.  It was already in shockingly good condition (the old fellow who owned it lost his storage and had to move it on), so now it’s at NCK getting some TLC.  You can tell this is as much a labour of love as it is a well run business.


If you love Japanese bikes and are anywhere within a stone’s throw of Woodstock, Ontario, you owe it to yourself to drop in to NCK Cycle Salvage and have a look around.  If you’re working on a Japanese bike, this place could save you a pile of money.  I got the ’97 Fireblade carb for $250CAD (they are going for $250US+shipping+customs on eBay).  When I was sourcing new parts that the muppet who butchered the carbs before me had broken – strange parts like choke plungers (not even sure how you would break one of those) or carb clamps (because this goof had tried gluing them to the engine!), I was quickly running up a bill into the hundreds of dollars US, plus shipping and border taxes – and that’s even assuming I could find the parts, many were not available.


A nice ride through the countryside on a sunny, autumn afternoon and I’ve got a donor carb that looks to be in even better shape than the low mileage one I was looking for parts for.  What I was going to use for parts I’m now swapping in.  I’ll take the old one apart and sell off the pieces.  I’m only a couple of online sales away from breaking even on the carb purchase.


I can’t recommend NCK enough – they know what they’re doing, do it well and if you’re looking for parts for an older Japanese bike, they might not only save you money, they might be the only ones who have what you need!


Maybe it’s just me, but a place like this scratched an aesthetic itch.  That’s a lot of Japanese colour to take in!

Where possible, and especially with older bikes, when a good tank comes in it gets special treatment.  Wherever possible they try and keep the tank and paint as original and unblemished as possible.

Fairing bits that might simply not be available any more, or cost you as much as the bike did in a dealer…

Little bits, big bits, mechanical bits; organized and accessible.

Fenders… so many fenders.  Got a cafe project?  These aren’t so dear that you’re afraid to modify them.

NCK also offers a purchase and store option where you can buy a used bike in the fall and pay it off over the winter while it sits in heated, safe storage in the warehouse – no extra charge.  Nice, eh?

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Getting to know a very different motorbike

I took the Concours out for a brief ride in the sun this afternoon to get a feel for her.  She’s a very different machine than the Ninja.  The carbs are a bit touchy when warming up, but then work in a very satisfying and immediate mechanical way once the bike is at temperature.  It’s a much bigger bike too (over two hundred pounds heavier), but surprisingly lithe for its size.

Where the Ninja picks up nicely in lower RPM, the Concours pulls immediately with a much flatter torque curve; the word ‘meaty’ comes to mind.  The Concours was also surprisingly lively at higher RPMs, pulling hard to the redline.  Not like the Ninja does (which is more like a bull in a China shop), but it still gets you down the road right quick.  The lightness of the internal bits in the Ninja’s 649cc parallel twin make it spool up like a turbine.  You can feel the complexity and weight of the Connie’s in-line four cylinder as it builds RPM.  Where the Ninja screams like a banshee (and sounds lovely doing it), the Concours has a deeper, more sonorous song, though (and surprising to me because I really love the Ninja howl) equally enticing.  I can see why previous Concours owners have said they’ve had no trouble keeping up with sports bikes, this is an agile, athletic machine that belies its size.

In corners, especially at speed, the weight of the Connie seems to disappear and I can hit apexes in a similarly precise manner to the much lighter NInja.  With so much torque on hand, you don’t need to keep the engine revving hard to get immediate pull out of it.  The Connie will go quickly without appearing to, with the Ninja you’ve got to keep it on boil to get that astonishing acceleration (as opposed to merely shocking acceleration at lower revs).

Controls wise the Concours is a much more comfortable machine.  The seat is wider and softer, the bike feels more substantial and not so wasp wasted between my knees.  The fairings keep the wind at bay, especially around  your feet.  In the rain your feet are soaked through on the Ninja where they are hanging out in the elements.  Riding in cool weather means thick socks.  I kept bumping my toes against the Connie’s lower fairing until I got used to using less toe on the gear change.  Knee bend is still pretty bent, though not nearly as much as the Ninja and with the wider seat didn’t seem so intense.

The Connie’s gearing is much higher than the Ninja’s.   At 120km/hr on the highway you’re up around 6000rpm on the Ninja.  I’d guess the Connie would be doing under half that at the same speed.  A more relaxed bike that still has hidden reserves and is light of foot, I’m looking forward to getting to know Connie better.

As I was riding home we fell into a groove, like a horse extending its legs into a comfortable gallop and I realized just how far this bike could take me.  She’s been sitting too long and wants to put road behind her.  Instead of wondering when to stop on the Ninja, I’ll be wondering how much further I can go on the Concours.

Cycle-Ergo shows me the numbers…


Fury Project: final drive & body panels

With the snow finally falling I’ve had time to start into the naked Concours project.  The first thing that needed addressing was the final drive unit which was leaking from the inner seal.  When the Clymers manual says you can do it but it’s a big pain in the ass, it’s best to have a practised hand do the work.  I took the unit off (easily done as it’s held on the drive shaft by four bolts) and loosened all the fasteners on the inner plate.  

Two Wheel Motorsport, my local Kawasaki dealership, said they could do the work and estimated two hours of shop time and a twelve dollar seal.  I dropped off the unit and got a call back four days later saying it was done.  It was a nice surprise to find that the work took less than an hour and my $250 estimate was suddenly a $120 bill.  You hear a lot of negative talk about dealerships but Two Wheel did this job professionally and quickly, and then didn’t overcharge when they easily could have.

I cleaned out the shaft drive end and re-greased everything.  Reinstalling the unit was easy and straightforward.  With the grease holding the spring in place I was able to simply slot the drive unit onto the shaft splines and re-torque the four nuts.  Everything went together smoothly and the drive feels tight and positive.


Since this was the only mechanical issue with the Concours I was able to begin thinking about the customization side of things.  With over 100lbs of plastic and metal removed from the bike I needed to start thinking about how to minimally dress this naked machine in order to cover up the plumbing and electrics.  Having a metal shop at work means handy access to fabrication tools.  Our shop teacher is also a Concours owner and is eager to help with panel building.  He suggested I do cardboard cutouts of the pieces I need and then we can begin the process of creating metal body work.

Body work craft day in the garage.

Doing the cutouts is tricky even in cardboard.  The left side cover goes over some electronics including the fuse panel and needs to bulge outward in order to contain all of that.  The right side is more straightforward but still needs cutouts for the rear brake wiring and rear suspension adjuster.  I’m curious to see how close the metal cutouts come to the cardboard templates.

The shop at school has a plasma cutter and we should be getting a laser engraver shortly.  With such advanced tools I’m already thinking about engraving panels.  Collecting together a bunch of line drawings of iconic images and sayings in a variety of languages would be an interesting way to dress up the minimal panels on this bike.  If the laser engraver can work on compound shapes I might drop the gas tank in there and engrave Kawasaki down the spine of it where the gold stripe will go rather than looking for badges or decals.


I enjoy the mechanical work but now that the Concours is working to spec I can focus on the arts and crafts side of customization.  Next up is trying to figure out how a minimal front panel that contains the headlight and covers up the electrical and plumbing at the front will look.






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Emotionally Fraught Vehicle Sales

The last time I was this emotional about selling a vehicle was when I sold the last car I ever owned as a single guy.  That Mercury Capri 5.0, 5 speed was a monster, the Millenium Falcon of cars.  It was the kind of thing that you could drive from Toronto to Montreal in 2 hours and 57 minutes!  Everything since that car has been a compromise, an appliance.

Seventeen years after that Capri was sold I found myself looking at a flat black 2007 Kawasaki Ninja in a cold garage in Fergus.  I didn’t have my license yet, but I went for it.  It was the first machine I’d owned in almost two decades that was a thrill rather than a necessity.  It was the first vehicle I’d owned in years that I took pictures of.

I’ve owned the Ninja for two seasons.  I’ve commuted on it, gone on long rides on it and learned how to ride with it.  On one of my first rides I realized it was able to do more for me than any car I’ve ever owned, maybe any car I would ever own; it made me fall in love with motorcycling.

Bikes tend to provoke a more emotional relationship no matter what the machine.  The two of you spend a lot of time exposed to the dangers of the road together.  The bike’s agility and power can get you out of any number of tricky situations when the distracted people in cages don’t see you.  Bikes reward competence with a wonderful feeling of empowerment.  I enjoy the exclusivity of biking as well, not everyone should do it.  The Ninja never failed to reward me for my efforts.

I went with the Ninja because it wasn’t tiny so I wouldn’t find it weak after getting the hang of riding.  That worked well, I’m not selling it now because it lacks in power, I’m just looking to expand my types of riding after having done the sport bike thing.  Since my son has taken to riding with me, a bike better suited to two up riding is what I’m transitioning to.  Happily, I’m as smitten with the Concours as I was with the Ninja, but that doesn’t make selling it any easier.

The Ninja’s 649cc engine was remarkably cheap to insure for a new rider and was phenomenally efficient, often getting more than 60mpg.  The bike has been a joy to operate, always dependable, always willing to teach me more as I got better.

I love riding, it’s a feeling of freedom like no other.  As a means of centering myself, motorbikes are a Zen mechanism that put you in the moment like no other machine (other than perhaps racing).  I’ll miss the Ninja, but selling it means I can diversify my biking.  The Concours will let me get some miles under my belt while still offering an athletic ride.  With the cash on hand from the Ninja I’ll be looking at a dual sport and getting a bit dirtier on two wheels.




BTW:  why $3900?  Because this!

After five people contacted me, the 3rd people to see the bike made an offer and I accepted.  The Ninja is sold within a week.  Now to consider how to expand my biking options…
Dual sport thoughts…



DR350?   I could get my Mondo on!






Here’s an interesting option: A Kawasaki KLX250 with a big bore kit up to 330cc.  Very light, stronger motor close to the Suzuki above in terms of power to weight ratio…