Monday 9 November 2015

I am alone

It is a beautiful fall day and I am alone. Sure, there are other vehicles on the road – lots of them – but mine is the only motorcycle I see. I feel sorry for those who have already put their bikes away for the winter. They don’t know what they’re missing, I think.

Trucks parked on the side of the rural roads with hunters patrolling the shoulders looking for evidence of game indicate deer season is upon us. Most carry rifles, some carry bows, but all are wearing blaze orange vests and caps over top of camouflage pants and jackets. I wonder, what is the point of wearing camo then? All look at me as if I’m nuts to be riding today. Some wave; most don’t.
No more bright reds and yellows in the forest. Now the trees are gray and barren, having sloughed off the last of their leaves during the wind storm a few days ago. It’s evident nature is hunkering down in preparation for winter.

Though it’s only 2 PM the bike and I cast a long shadow across the pavement. The sun, in a deep blue, cloudless sky, is already low on the southern horizon, providing light but little heat, a huge change from even a month ago. So it’s cool. The forecast was for 11 degrees, but it feels like it’s still in the single digits. No matter, I’m dressed for it and am reasonably comfortable. Besides, a cup of coffee at Tim Hortons will warm the blood in advance of the return trip home.

I don’t quite achieve a Zen state of riding – it’s not that kind of day – but for a couple of hours I am in my element. I think about the beauty of nature and how transient summer is at this latitude. I enjoy the sense of calm while riding a country road with no other vehicle in sight. I breath the crisp autumn air, with just a hint of decay as the fallen leaves begin their journey to ultimately become forest loam. I listen to, and feel, the sound of the big twin and remark, again, on how much better it runs in the cooler, dense, air. And I wonder if this is my last ride of the season.

Friday 23 October 2015

Country living – the dump.

Country living has a lot going for it – the solitude, the beauty of raw nature, fishing off the dock, and the dump.

Not all dumps are treasure troves like this one:

Sometimes they are small town entertainment like the one where we used to go to shoot the rats and feed the bears.bear_02But, more recently, with the renew, reuse, recycle mantra in full swing they have become something more.

One of Jeff Foxworthy’s clues to the fact you might be a redneck is “If you come home from the dump with more than you left with.” Well, by that definition, your honour, I have to plead guilty, but with an explanation.

Faced with an instant lawn weed field after a major storm transformed our beautiful forest into so much kindling wood by a so-called macro-burst 3 years ago, I needed to find a way to tame it somehow. A scythe did the job for a while but I was keeping my eyes open for some machinery to make the job a bit easier.

Then one day I saw an old mower on the metal recycling heap at the dump. I went and checked it out. It didn’t run but it turned over okay and the compression seemed decent. The housing was cracked and a couple of wheels were broken but otherwise I thought it might do the job. So home it came with me.

The missus just rolled her eyes (a pretty common occurrence around here on dump day), but I cleaned it up, put in fresh gas, and it fired up on the 3rd pull. I replaced the broken wheels with 2 spare wheels I had in stock (found earlier, also at the dump) and I now have a working lawn mower to keep the weed field at bay. IMG_20150830_172802136Doesn’t get much better than free. Thanks Bill Mulvihill, whoever you are!

Friday 4 September 2015

They came, they saw….

… and - whoosh! - they were gone, continuing their whirlwind tour of Eastern Ontario.
I had the pleasure of being host and tour guide for Roland and Sonja while they spent a couple of days in the Nation’s Capitol as part of their Blogger to Blogger Tour 2015.

En route we first had to stop so they could dip their feet (figuratively) in the Mississippi River where it flows under the 5-span stone bridge in Pakenham. Mission accomplished, it was on to Ottawa for the rest of the day.

Clearly you can only scratch the surface of a city of 750,000 people in one day, but we gave it a shot. We visited all the obligatory sites – the Market, Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, and the National War Memorial where a couple of reservists proudly guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, this after a guard was brutally murdered there last fall. And we visited a wonderful, but little known, rock balancing artist, John Felice Ceprano (that genre is, apparently, a ‘thing’, with an international community of rock balancing artists that have conventions and competitions) and his work at Remic Rapids on the Ottawa River.

Of course the tour also included a great lunch at a new-to-me Vietnamese Restaurant in the Market and a post-tour beer at an also-new-to-me Bier Markt on the Sparks Street Mall. (link)

All in all a great day with great company.

Monday 3 August 2015

The Best Bar in America – a review

BBIA_DVD_20_NEWI don’t recall where I first came across this film, but it was somewhere online. As soon as I read the first sentence of the synopsis (“A whisky-fueled writing assignment takes one man on an epic motorcycle road trip through the bars and taverns across the American West.”) I knew I wanted to watch it. So I ordered it from their web site and a few days later a small package arrived.

An indie film released in 2013, The Best Bar in America tells the story of Sanders, a struggling writer, and his not-so-trusty 1960 BMW R60/2 sidecar outfit as they roll from bar to bar throughout the western US, ultimately ending up in Montana. The journey starts as an attempt to write a book documenting many of the supposedly 11,000+ bars and taverns in the west but, as road movies go, the trip becomes much more than that as Sanders meets various characters during his adventure.

It’s a short film and it flows along at a leisurely pace.  There are no star actors, no pyrotechnics or CGI, and only a couple of ‘chase’ scenes that are more humorous than anything. It’s just an endearing, relaxing ride for about 90 minutes.

I recommend it as a worthy addition to any motorcycle road trip collection.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Sound of silence

I was out for a short ride the other day and came up behind a couple riding a full dresser. Maintaining a respectful distance, and over the sound of my exhaust and theirs, as well as 80 kilometre wind noise I could still hear their stereo – not clearly, but enough to recognize the occasional song.

Now I like my tunes, but when I’m riding the only sounds I want to hear besides the reassuringly steady rhythm of a big twin are the ones in my head, ideas for blog posts, thoughts on future projects, what I’ll do with my big lottery winnings sure to come any day now, or general and random contemplations on life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. And if I feel the need for music I’ll bring up something from the memory banks, perhaps Lindi Ortega’s Jimmy Dean, or Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. I won’t remember all the words, but I will remember the music and enough of the lyrics to carry me for miles, even if it does sometimes sound like a stuck record - red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme … click … red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme … click … red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme... like an ear-worm burrowing itself even deeper into your subconscious.

I have tried listening to music when I ride: the Electra-Glides we rented in Las Vegas for our trip 2 years ago (how time flies!) were all fully equipped. I played with the stereo for a while until I figured out how it all worked. Then I turned it off, and didn’t turn it back on for the duration of the trip. My brother, on the other hand, had his going full bore for the entire week. To each his own.

So enjoy your 8-channel stereo systems, your communication devices and Bluetooth connections, your iPods and amplifiers, if you can. All I want is silence and the space it gives me to simply think and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

There’s always someone to spoil the day

After a spectacular May we have had a pretty miserable June so far with lots of rain and very cool temperatures. So when this weekend was forecast to be sunny and hot (YES!!) the die was cast – Saturday was going to be a long ride day.

After a bit of a late start (10:30) I headed off for Calabogie and Highway 511 through Lanark to Perth where I stopped for lunch. Not surprisingly there were a lot of bikes on the road and I wasn’t lacking for comradeship at the Perth Tim Hortons while I ate.

I had planned on going north to Carleton Place and home from there, but a spur of the moment decision saw me heading west on Highway 7 towards Kaladar. I stopped there for gas and a chat with a couple of good ol’ boys heading to a tractor pull with 2 machines loaded on a flatbed, and then swung back north on Highway 41 towards Dacre and onwards to Renfrew.

Kaladar Loop
Up to that point the riding had been great. There was quite a lot of traffic but it had been moving well so it wasn’t a bother. But when I hit Highway 41 it was like everyone had gone home. Kilometre after kilometre passed without seeing another vehicle in either direction. It was great riding!

At a tad over 100 kph I wasn’t exactly doing the limit (80 kph on that stretch) so I was watching the mirrors conscientiously in case some cop was looking to pick up a few extra points towards his quota. Nothing until, seemingly out of nowhere, 2 bikes were on my tail. The first passed on my left across a double line at a very high speed, and as I was waiting for his buddy to do likewise, said buddy passed me on the right hand side, in the 4 feet or so separating me from the gravel shoulder catching me completely by surprise.

Now I am usually pretty cool about ride whatever you like as long as it’s two wheels. And I have no issue with exceeding the speed limit under the right conditions. But these guys who crouch over the tank like they’re Valentino Rossi on a Grand Prix track are leaving me with a bad taste for sports bikes in general and, by extension, their riders. Unfair, I know, but if I, as a motorcycle rider, detest these morons who put others at risk with their childish and irresponsible road behaviour, just think what the average cager thinks, and worse, what they say to the politicians considering further restrictions on our sport.

And to the idiot with the IQ just slightly above the total number of cylinders between his legs who passed me, there’s a special award waiting just for you. It’s called the Darwin Award. Look it up.

Saturday 13 June 2015

Problems do not exist in isolation

There are many ‘laws’ that affect  our daily lives. Some, such as the earth circling the sun, are immutable laws of nature. Others are simply truisms, or maxims, like Murphy’s Law. Now I believe I have discovered another: Problems do not exist in isolation; when one is solved another immediately presents itself to fill the void. Perhaps I’ll call it Dave’s Law.

Original problem: GoPro camera running out of juice, resulting in lost video opportunities.
Original solution: With a hat tip to Richard for the idea, install a USB power supply and plug the camera in to that. Worked great! Except…

Next problem: With the GoPro camera on an unlimited power supply, the remote control ran out of juice, resulting in lost video opportunities.

Next solution: Get a USB splitter cable and plug the remote into one of the outlets and the camera into the other. Now I have unlimited power to both and no more dead batteries.

Today's problem: With unlimited power to the camera and remote I can now video to my heart’s content. Until, that is, the SD card fills up, ersulting in lost video opportuinities.

Today’s solution: Get a larger SD card.

Tomorrow’s problem: Who knows, but you can be sure there will be something. Dave’s Law says so.

Sunday 7 June 2015

A day at the auction

One thing I’ve learned since owning a tractor is that everything tractor related is hellish expensive. Actually it’s a bit like owning a Harley come to think of it.

At any rate I need want to get a scraper blade to keep our roadway graded and in decent condition. I could buy new but both cars need new tires, and there are a couple of bike related things I want to get, and … well you get the picture.


So I’ve been watching the local auctions, and when the local M&R Feeds hosted its annual consignment auction of farm equipment this past weekend, I had to pay a visit hoping to find a deal.

The selection of goods for sale wasn’t quite as varied, nor as unique, as last year (link) but there was a 7’ blade being offered up. Not as heavy duty as I was looking for, it had also seen some serious wear and tear, including at least one spot that had been welded back together. (Even the fresh coat of paint couldn’t hide that.) Not perfect by any means but if I could get it for the price I thought it was worth it just might do. After all it’s not like I’m contracting road work to the county; it’s just to grade my driveway a couple of times a year.

While waiting for that lot to come up I wandered the rest of the auction looking for anything else of interest. I found quite a bit, but collecting old tractors is a new hobby that I just don’t need.  And while some of the old, horse-drawn implements would have made great garden ornaments, I couldn’t compete with one guy who was paying top dollar for anything old and rusty, all to be shipped (apparently) to a museum down around Salt Lake City.

People watching is always interesting at these events. Being close to the city we get city folk coming out to see what’s going on. You can usually tell them by the fact they’re wearing sandals, shorts, and tee-shirts with Def Leppard World Tour emblazoned on the back,  and are carrying a Nalgene water bottle. The local farmers on the other hand are the ones wearing steel-toed boots, an open shirt or vest over a plain white or grey tee-shirt, are 2 months past due for a haircut, 3 days past their last shave, and probably have an extra large coffee dwarfed in a hand that’s the size of a catcher’s mitt. The museum buyer was somewhere in the middle.

I did briefly consider an old road grader (forgot to take a picture, but it looked like this one) instead of buying a scraper blade, but figured the spousal unit might consider that a bit of overkill. So even though it would be a neat machine to own I didn’t stick around to see how much it went for, which is probably just as well because if it went cheap I’d just be upset.


Anyone who has been to an auction will attest that it’s hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere, and I’m no different. I found myself bidding on a few items that would have been neat to own if I could get them for a song, but either the museum guy or one of the Def Leppard tee-shirt sporting city types quickly bid the prices up far beyond what they were worth to me, and in at least one case more than the same item could be purchased in one of the many local antique shops.  Oh well...

Finally, after hanging around for a couple of hours, it was time for the lot containing the scraper blade I had my eyes on. The auctioneer started at $500. No takers. $400. No takers. $300. $200. $100. Still no takers. This is encouraging I thought, and so I bid $50. My soon-to-become nemesis (turns out there were only 2 of us interested) went to $75. $100. $125. $150. Back and forth it went in $25 increments until I bid $350 and he countered with $375. Back to me: $400? I thought the blade was worth about $350, and certainly no more than $400. If I bid $400 would he have gone to $425? Maybe, but we’ll never know because I pulled out. That was the end of my day at the auction.

Though I came home empty handed it was still a fun day and I’ll be back again next year. Even if I don’t have something specific in mind I know I’ll find something of interest, and maybe even win a bidding war or two as I’m batting .000 so far and am due for a turnaround.

Monday 18 May 2015

Misty Green

With so many builders out there and so many styles it’s inevitable that some bikes, while beautiful in the eyes of the builder/owner, trigger my gag reflex. And then there are many, many that do nothing at all for me – take it or leave it, could not care less. But then every so often a bike surfaces that, to my eye at least, is so stunning I’m left drooling on my keyboard and wondering if I could afford it if I sold my left arm. (Just kidding about that last bit – how would I clutch?)

Enter Misty Green.

Misty Green

The heart of Misty Green is a 1968 Norton Commando 750cc engine (I’ve had a love affair with the Norton marque forever as some of you may know), and the front end is off a Honda CB550 (Had one of those too; it’s really calling out to me now!) But what I really love about the bike is it’s such a beautifully crafted version of the 60’s and 70’s cafe racers.

I won’t prattle on any more but will simply stare longingly at this photo for a while longer as you hop over to Fuller Moto for more fantastic images and a description of the build.


Monday 4 May 2015

From the “It’s always something” department

We’ve had spectacular weather here the past few days (we earned it!) and yesterday I put down the yard work tools to go for a ride. Not a long ride but I needed a few things at Canadian Tire and a stop at Tim Hortons on the way home was also factored in.

To get a few extra riding miles in I headed up the valley to Renfrew instead of going to my local outlet. Besides the Renfrew Can Tire is a much larger store and offers more opportunities to buy stuff I don’t really need but which is too good a deal to pass up.

I got what I needed (and a little more besides) and headed over to Timmies where I enjoyed my Iced Capp and watched the bikes roll by on O’Brien Street.

But then, as I’m riding home, a dreaded red light comes on on the dash. IMG_20150503_160328046The bike’s still running strong but I also notice my signal lights aren’t working.

That’s not good, but at least no other indicators are lit that would indicate an oil pressure problem or anything like that. So it’s hand signals and I press on home, concerned about the reason the warning light’s on. It’s when I pull into the garage that I also notice I have no headlight and no taillights. Really not good.
I checked the fuses and found there’s one burnt. Ah-ha! Replaced it only to have the second one blow as soon as I turned on the ignition.

So I’ve got a short - somewhere. A wire has pulled out of a connector, or the insulation is worn through and making an unexpected connection. After a couple of hours I am still no further ahead. The bike is somewhat dismantled (most of the wiring harness is under the tank and really easy to get at – NOT!) and I’ve blown all the spare fuses I had.


So I’m done for today. Tomorrow I’ll pick up some more fuses, or a circuit breaker if I can find one, and go at it again.  That’s what I hate about electrical issues – either you find it right away (which I didn’t), or you’re in for a long, hard slog with a multimeter and continuity tester until you track it down. Wish me luck!

Thursday 16 April 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.


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 9 April 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.
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.
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 4 April 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 23 March 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:

Small chest – cherry.

Hall bench – pine and maple.

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 14 March 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.
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 21 February 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.

Saturday 14 February 2015

How to spend a dreary winter day

Yesterday morning dawned bright and cold, –40 to be exact. At –40 it doesn’t matter whether you are using the Celsius or Fahrenheit scale – they cross over at –40 which, in anyone’s experience, is just damned cold. Today was milder (only –16C) but windy and snowing so not all that pleasant either. So what to do? Why, go to the motorcycle show, of course!
And so I slipped and slid my way (on 4 wheels) into Ottawa to attend the 2015 International Motorcycle Show. Truth be told I wasn’t really sure it would be worth the trip as I’d been pretty disappointed the last time I went. But I’m glad I did as the show had improved a lot and was much better than expected.
There seemed to be more dealers in attendance, and they all had lots of bikes on display, including some of their used inventory. The custom bike exhibits were more expansive and well laid out to afford good views of some of the artwork on display. And, for the SOA fans, there was even an autograph signing by Chibs and Bobby – for a fee, of course.
There weren’t many aftermarket vendors there, but in the past I’ve found their offerings to be mostly old stock that they were trying to finally get rid of, so they weren’t missed by me. But one group that I’ve always enjoyed seeing that wasn’t there this year is the vintage bike owners. Usually the CVMG (Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group)  could be counted on to have a dozen or so of their prime specimens on display, and I would usually meet a couple of people I know at their exhibit. Too bad. I hope they’ll be back.
As mentioned, the dealers were well represented and I (along with many others) got to try on various bikes for size. (Sorry to have to use internet photos, but crowds around these bikes made getting pictures difficult.) Having long lusted after a new Triumph Bonneville I had to give it a go. Immediate flashback to the sixties: uncomfortable slab seat, narrow tank and bars, and a sit-up-and-beg riding position. I think I’ve moved on.
MH6_MY14_Bonneville_MM_RHS(Photo: Internet)
Enough nostalgia, on to the BMWs. The adventure tourers and the sports bikes did nothing for me, but the K 1600 GTL felt like I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy at home. Beautifully balanced, perfect ergonomics (for me, at least), I could easily envision myself heading out to the wet coast in a series of 600 mile days. Very, very nice indeed, but what would I do with all my Harley tee-shirts?
normal_36(Photo: Internet)
The Ducatis were next. The last time I actually rode one was decades ago and it was a Desmo 450cc single. Well, we’ve come a long way since then baby and now the pride of the pack is the Ducati Monster 1200 S. With that almost-cafe racer positioning and some incredible Italian engineering between my knees I had visions of tearing up the twisties at an outrageous clip. Then I remembered how many birthdays I’ve experienced and disembarked, slowly, with a hint of regret.

And, of course, all the new Harley models, especially the Road King and Electra Glide – both on my when-I-win-the-lottery list. Maybe even this CVO model for a cool 46 grand, plus taxes. (Worth every penny ‘cause I really like the paint scheme.)

When I go to these shows I also like to see what I can’t see in the showrooms, so I’m always attracted to the custom bikes. While I’d never own one (Two thoughts always come to mind. First, that looks really uncomfortable to ride. And, second, how much would it cost to fix a stone chip in the paint?) I do admire the creativity and artistry involved.
Also got to check out some of the 3-wheeled offerings although I don’t think I’m quite there yet. But, to be fair, I’ve never ridden one either. Who knows, maybe it would be love at first sight ride.

So, I managed to escape this year’s seemingly endless winter for several hours, dream a little bit, immerse myself in all things motorcycle, and see Chibs and Bobby on the show floor (when I didn’t have my camera ready, of course). All that and I got in on a senior’s discount! Not a bad day.

Thursday 29 January 2015

It works!

There may be snow on the ground and it may be –30C out there but don’t let that fool you, gardening season is not that far away. And if the calendar wasn't a good enough indicator the almost daily arrival of seeds, plant catalogues, and various and sundry gardening magazines provides proof positive that we’ll soon be working in the dirt again.

And so it is time to get the garden tiller working. It was always really hard to start, and then, right in the middle of the fall clean-up, it quit. I couldn't get it running again so into the shed it went, another problem to be dealt with “some day”. Bought well used for a song 7 or 8 years ago it doesn't owe me a dime, but I’m loathe to throw anything out if it can be fixed. I also love tearing stuff apart just to see how it works. (And sometimes I can even get it back together again.)

At the very least I expected an ignition problem and that the coil was going bad. Soon enough that was confirmed but before spending any money on replacement electrical parts I wanted to make sure the engine itself was in reasonable condition.  Enter my brand new leak down tester.

Snapshot 2 (29-01-2015 7-44 PM)Snapshot 3 (29-01-2015 7-47 PM)

With everything hooked up and pressure being applied at 30 psi, the pressure drop was about 5 psi, or about 16% - 18%. Since the test was done on a cold engine (should really be at operating temperature) the leakage measured will be somewhat higher due to the greater cold clearances in these small air-cooled engines. So let’s call it 15%. Is that good or bad? General guidelines are that a brand new engine might read anything from 5% to 10%, over 20% shows significant wear on some internal parts (likely valves or rings), and over 30% means you’re probably looking at a complete rebuild. So I'm quite happy and satisfied that there are no major surprises inside the chamber that will keep this engine from providing a few more seasons of good service once the electrical issues are remedied.

The tester did its job, and I can see it getting a LOT of use from now on.

Monday 26 January 2015

Another tool for the box

One of the standard diagnostic tests for engine health is the compression test where a pressure gauge (compression tester) is inserted into the spark plug hole, the engine is turned over at high speed, and the resulting compression reading provides an indication into the condition of the combustion chamber. If the compression is too low you might have a leaking valve, worn piston rings, a scored cylinder wall, a leaking head gasket, or a cracked piston, any of which would result in low or no power from that cylinder.

However compression testers don’t work very well on small engines, or engines that are pull start such as lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc., engines I often find myself working on. They also don’t do much to help isolate the problem other than to tell you, “something’s wrong in there”. Enter the leak  down tester which doesn’t require the engine to be turned over and which also helps identify the specific problem causing the compression loss.

You can buy a leak down tester for anywhere from $100 up, which was more than I could justify, so I went looking for options and found a whole series of YouTube and Instructables guides to building your own. And it turns out I had all the key components already and was missing only a few smaller pieces and connectors, solved by a quick trip to Canadian Tire and Home Depot. After a bit of light machining and assembly I now have my very own leak down tester for about $15 over and above the bits and pieces from my never-throw-anything-out bins.


As soon as the temperatures rise above the current –20s (brrrrrrr…) I have a couple of small engines I can’t wait to try it out on.