Thursday, April 16, 2015

First ride of the year, almost.

Okay. The new tire is installed. The front fork oil has been changed, as has the engine oil and oil filter, and the transmission oil. The additional USB outlet is installed and ready to accept the GoPro plug-in. The bike has been gone over in detail to make sure everything is nice and tight and there won’t be any bits falling off as I go down the road. I even cleaned last year’s bugs off my riding glasses (although they remain on the windshield – tsk, tsk.)

It’s a bit cool this morning but the sun is out and it should warm up quickly. I’m good to go.

All right then – gear on, helmet on, gloves on, ignition on… click… click… click. CRAP!

The 8-year-old battery decided it had finally had enough. I knew it was getting on but I thought I had a few more months in it. Apparently not.

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So instead of the first ride I got a 160-kilometre round trip 4-wheel jaunt into the city for a new battery. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.

And if anyone wants a dead battery, you can have it. It’s free of charge.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Guest post: State Route 21–Arkansas

At just under 100 miles in length, State Route 21 is one of the most enjoyable rides that Arkansas has to offer motorcyclists. Beginning at the south end in either Clarksville or Berryville, riders will travel north until they hit the Missouri state line. With switchbacks, tight corners, beautiful scenery and a clean, natural environment, riders will find themselves closer to nature than anywhere else in the state. While State Route 21 is a popular travel system, it's never too crowded to enjoy. Whether you're local or simply passing through, State Route 21 has something for riders to experience time and time again.

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While the entire length of State Route 21 is easily covered in a single afternoon, riders should focus their attention to the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway. At just over 35 miles, this stretch of SR-21 offers riders both a white-knuckle ride and beautiful scenery over the state's most recognizable natural features. Sweeping corners, death-defying drop-offs and gorgeous backdrops mark the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway journey from start to finish. Because the wildlife in this area is so abundant, riders should be cautious of animals entering and exiting the highway at all times. But don't let that deter you from opening the throttle and dragging those knees!

From highway 16 in Newton County to U.S. 62 in Carroll County, State Route 21 intersects with many important highway systems throughout its 99 miles. Riders can choose to follow 21 through its entire journey – and it's very much encouraged – or they can opt to choose a more popular route, such as U.S. 62, and continue east to New York or west to Texas. Whichever path is chosen, State Route 21 helps motorcyclists find more fun and exciting roads for their adrenaline needs.

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There are plenty of campgrounds along State Route 21 if you wish to connect with nature in a personal way, but other lodging options are available if you desire. The great thing about State Route 21 is that it truly has something for everybody, no matter the budget or recreational preference. Before heading out, though, you should check the local area for forecast and traffic details. You wouldn't want to suit up for a brisk ride through the Ozarks if rain is guaranteed to stand in your way, because that area gets really wet!

This was a guest post provided by the people at Motorcycle House. Proper attire for a motorcycle outing can be as difficult as choosing the right tires for your whip. If you choose the wrong gear or equipment, it could greatly impact the rest of your journey. Of course, it really does not have to be a difficult decision as a flexible but snug jacket will make your ride that much more enjoyable. For a region such as the Ozarks, Viking Cycle makes a great line of vests and leather jackets that fit comfortably and allow riders to breathe. Of course, riders may choose to wear something a bit heavier and weatherproof during the fall and winter months, and Icon's Patrol lends itself nicely to that need.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Getting ready.

My regular readers are probably tired of me and every other rider in the northeast complaining about the lousy winter we’ve had and the late spring delaying that first ride of the season well into April. So I won’t complain any more. Besides, a recent scientific study comparing the level of vitriol spewed in the direction of the weather gods and the hoped-for results has proven they (the weather gods) don’t really give a damn what we think. So we suck it up.

It was –5C this morning as we enjoyed (!) a fresh inch or so of snow that fell overnight. My driveway is still covered in places with 4” of ice, and where the ice is gone the mud is equally deep and very, very slippery. In other words, perfect conditions to spend some time in the garage going over the bike from stem to stern. (Nautical terms, I know, but I don’t know the motorcycle equivalent.)

There is no shortage of checklists offered up by virtually every motorcycle mag and various bloggers providing a step-by-step process to ensure the safety of your ride when you do hit the road, so I won’t go through them here. Suffice to say Google is your friend.

But I did find a few things that, left unchecked, could have created problems, probably at the most inopportune time, as usual.

Tires. The new Dunlops I put on a couple of years ago have not worn well. Actually the rear is still okay, but the front is worn out after only 6,000 miles. I thought I might get a bit more out of it but looking at it today, nope, needs to be replaced. And why not? It’s the perfect storm. This spring I need to put new tires on the Escape, the Focus, the 4X4, and now the Dyna. Take a number. Get in line.

Discovered a few loose bolts here and there, including a saddle bag mount. Maybe that’s the rattle I was hearing at the end of last year’s riding season. Now it’s been found, and fixed.

My 12V to USB cable and connector arrived, so that needs to be installed which will happen tomorrow. Getting the wires properly routed will take some time but better that than having them melt against a hot pipe, or chafe through at a rough contact point. 

Other than those things, and the fact that it’s filthy dirty, everything looks good. No decent weather is expected any time soon, so next week I can go searching for tires so I’ll be ready to ride when Old Man Winter finally says “Enough!”.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How I spent my winter vacation

Remember back in grade school when one of the first assignments of the new school year in September was to write a report on “How I spent my summer vacation”?

I always had trouble with that as my summer vacations at that age were spent playing outside, mostly amusing myself by kicking an empty can up and down a dirt road, or maybe going for a swim down at the lake, or riding my bike when I had one. The stuff of a rural life back then during the Pleistocene was sorely lacking in excitement compared to schoolmates who actually ‘went away’ somewhere.  So let’s just say my report was usually pretty short and quite uninteresting.

Well in the intervening decades not much has changed, except that with retirement the summer vacation has now become the winter vacation – that 6 months when the roads are too snowy and icy to ride and the golf courses are all shut down. For a few years the missus and I tried Freeze Your Ass Off_w540_h407the ‘went away’ option but the weather never cooperated and, except for the lack of snow, freezing our asses off in Myrtle Beach, or Tampa, didn’t seem that much different from freezing our asses off at home in White Lake.

So this year, except for a brief trip to New York City (where we froze our asses off), we stayed home.

Reading the periodic updates of ScooterBob’s travels and about rides taken by blogging friends in more hospitable climes only did so much to manage the cabin fever. I needed something else to do and it wasn’t to take up year-round riding like Richard or Dom.

Fortunately the daughter had just moved into a new apartment and needed ‘a few things’ to finish it off. And since I needed ‘a few things’ to do she was more than willing to provide a list. (There’s ALWAYS a list.) So out came the woodworking tools, having been mostly neglected for the past few years, the dust was brushed off the various piles of lumber I had been saving for that someday special project, and I went to work. Here are some of the results:

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Small chest – cherry.

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Hall bench – pine and maple.

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Laundry bin – cherry, maple, oak.

I’m an inveterate serial hobbyist, going full steam at one thing or another for a few years, then branching off to something else for a while, and then to yet something else again. In fact, the only ‘hobby’ that I have consistently enjoyed has been motorcycling, which may make it more lifestyle than hobby I suppose. But regardless, I guess it was just the right time to get back in touch with wood, and it felt great to be ‘hands on’ again.

Now for the next project. Where’s that list?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Summer’s coming – where to ride?

They tell me (and I believe it to be true) that eventually this miserable winter will end and we’ll have some fine summer riding coming up. Which leads to the inevitable question: Do I want to do a road trip? And to where? Actually that’s 2 questions but they are pretty closely related so I’ll beg forgiveness.

If you are lost for ideas, the people over at Discovery News have a suggested route that will take you to all 48 contiguous states and provide an opportunity to visit 50 major landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, Fort Sumter, Mount Rushmore (and, presumably, countless lesser-known landmarks, large lobsters, Paul Bunyan statues, etc. that might be encountered en route). I’ve only seen 11 of the 50 designated sites, which I expect is probably close to the norm, so there are lots of new places to be visited out there.

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To do the entire trip would take about 240 hours or so of driving, or 2 to 3 months depending on how big a hurry you are in. But since it’s a big loop you can start and end anywhere you like, chopping the route into a multi-year adventure if so inclined, or even a moto-blogger challenge of some sort.

Just something else to consider when making plans, especially if the Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska are on your bucket list. (I had to look that one up – could be interesting.) .

(The route was calculated by doctoral student Randy Olson who’s qualifications seemed to be that he had previously developed a search strategy for finding Waldo. He describes that process here in some detail. Worth a read as well.)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Attention test

Spend a minute watching this auto commercial for the new SKODA Fabia; your time won’t be wasted.

Interesting, isn’t it? It may only be a commercial but it provides a perfect example of what we’re up against on the roads. If that driver coming up to the intersection is so focused on watching the light to make sure he gets through on the green, or is concentrating on whether she has room to turn in front of the truck that’s right behind you, you simply will not register on their conscience.

I’ve blogged about this before (here and here) but it’s a message that deserves repeating again, and again, and again.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not excusing anyone’s inattentiveness and bad driving, but being forewarned is, as they say, forearmed. Knowing how we all ‘see’ the world around us under certain conditions might some day save your life.

Something to think about as we slowly emerge from our winter cocoons to start a new riding season.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I have a project!

What is winter good for if not to provide us with free time to do ‘stuff’ to our motorcycles? I have been pretty busy in the shop doing various things but I was beginning to think I’d make it through to spring without a bike project.  Then I came across this post over at Richard’s where he described modifying his GoPro case to allow the camera to be run off bike power.

Brilliant! No more missed opportunities because of a dead battery, no more pulling off onto the shoulder to dig out a replacement battery, and, as a bonus, no more having to pull the camera from the case to upload videos. All I needed was a spare case and a power point of some sort.

It turns out the case was easy as they already make them with an open side for exactly this purpose, and my eBay friends in Thailand will send one to me no problem, free shipping, for the princely sum of $13 (Cdn). Done! 691-657_BShould be here in a few weeks.

Now all I have to do is decide what type of power point I want to install. There is no shortage of options so I can see myself spending more than a few minutes navigating my way through online catalogues looking for that perfect solution. But there’s no rush as it feels like this winter will be with us for quite a while yet.