Monday, March 25, 2019

The Chain and the Frame

The subject of motorcycle drive has been on my mind lately.  I'm due to change the chain on my KTM after trying the clean but don't lube approach.  And a friend is in the process of modifying an old BMW with a more modern swing arm, so we were talking about shortening his driveshaft.  It's a surprisingly wimpy looking thing that looks more like a steering shaft than a drive shaft to me.
Along the way, I was referred to a video of a motorcycle chain during a drag strip run.  It's not exactly your street bike, but it is a view I've never seen before and often wondered about.

Since we are on the subject, there is also this video from Kevin Cameron on how motorcycle frames have evolved over the years.  It's fun to see him explain things with his hands.

That reminded me of a recent conversation with a fast rider from our club.  He said that most people have no idea what the capability of a modern sport bike really is.  He picked a road I know which has many tight corners marked at 15 and 20 mph and said that he can average 70 to 80 mph over that mountain.  This could be unsupported bragging, but knowing who said it, I suspect it is data based and pretty close to the truth.  In that case, I hope I never find out the true capability of a sport bike.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Northern California Redux

The sidebar.

You may already be aware that Apple products have gotten very expensive.  It came time to replace my computer and I found that the successor model to my old Mac Mini was $1000 higher, more than double, what my 2012 model had been.  So I started looking around for alternatives and decided to give what's known as a hackintosh a try.  This is a computer built with Windows compatible components that is tweaked to run Mac OS.  Alas, Apple is doing a good job of protecting their intellectual property making it very hard to run that Mac OS on Windows hardware. Of course, my skills in this area are poor, so in the end I failed and put Windows 10 on my Windows hardware computer.  Note that this isn't a great solution for Apple or me, as I am now working on the Windows OS instead of Mac.  Oh well.

So Windows 10 is enough different to cause a learning curve, but one interesting thing that they do is offer pretty landscape pictures on their boot-up screen and those change over time.  You even get to tell it which pictures you like so that they tune it to your taste.

That sent me on an internet quest to download some nice free pictures for wallpaper on the Windows box.  With that success, I noticed that my Mac, which I still use, was a little boring in the wallpaper department. So, I went looking through my pictures for interesting alternatives. And that brought me back to my 2011 trip to northern California.  Several of these I had posted earlier, but heck, that was 8 years ago.

Wandering the backroads, I came across several interesting farm trucks.  These were both in the foothills just west of the Russian River Valley.  Both are Fords from a similar, if not the same era.

I will throw in the traditional ocean shoreline shot and a picture of a Mendocino cottage, mainly for the contrast between the wood and the green grass.

But the thing that got my camera's attention was the moss growing in range of the mist from the ocean.  Enjoy.

 Armstrong State Natural Reserve

 Porter Creek


Pine Flats

Moss Fence

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Burkes Garden

I have always been attracted to quiet places.  When I was a kid, I wanted to buy Round Island and live in the Lighthouse.  Not a very practical fantasy.

After living for years in crowded California, I moved back to Michigan and began my house search.  Once again, I was tempted by a quiet place, a home for sale with a 1/4 mile driveway, 30 acres and surrounded on 3 sides by state wildlife land.  But I came to my senses and bought a house with a bit of privacy, but still close enough to people so that I didn't become a hermit.

On a recent motorcycle trip, I visited a quiet place that manages to be both quiet and community.  It's called Burkes Garden in western Virginia and it starts out with rather unique topography.  As you can see from the photographs, it is a high valley surrounded by mountains with only a small gap for the water to flow out of the valley and into a narrow valley.  From the air, you might think its a crater from a volcano or meteor strike, but scientists tell us that the valley was formed when a massive cavern collapsed under the mountain.  Sometimes called "God's Thumbprint", it remains a remote and beautiful valley, especially because the valley access is a climb over a mountain ridge that drops into a valley far from towns and services.

On my visit, after climbing up the mountain and down into the valley, I came through the gap to a large pond held behind a dam.  My first clue that this was a quiet place was when I disturbed two bald eagles who had been fishing in the pond.  They flew parallel to me on the bike for 50 yards before turning away from the road.  Magnificent. 

The community living in the valley consists mainly of farmers, about half of them Amish.  Interestingly, the little general store that I stopped at for lunch is run by a friendly Amish lady who was originally from Reed City, Mi.

I mentioned it was both a quiet place and a sense of community.  While I was eating my lunch, a non-Amish farmer came into the store and I was privileged to overhear a conversation about Amish and non-Amish coming together to build a community meeting place and music venue.  It's cool that the valley is remote enough to be quiet and yet remains a friendly community with residents supporting each other.  The valley must be pretty isolated sometimes in winter.  At 3000 ft elevation, its high enough to get snow and I wouldn't want to go over that mountain on a snowy road.

What a nice and interesting place for a closet hermit like me.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Following my nose through the countryside

For the first 35 years or so of my driving career, I always owned at least one convertible.   With the top down, you can see more, especially looking up.  You feel more out in the world and there is also the smell factor.  I would argue that the sense of smell is the second most important sense for exploring the countryside.

As I have transitioned to a motorcycle for my explorations, I've kept most of the good things about the convertible.  Ok, I don't get the wind in my hair because of the helmet, but you truly feel like you are out in the world with lots of fresh air, a full view, and all the smells.

There are exhaust smells, wet leaf smells, and factory smells.  The summer I worked at the GM Proving Grounds, I was driving the Sprite and I could have told you blindfolded where I was when I smelled this one small factory.  The smell was a mix of hot linseed oil, WD40, and something electrical getting too hot. I never did figure out what they made at that factory.

I admit, there are smells that I might rather do without, but the clean, fresh breeze when you come over a mountain pass makes up for any nasty smells.

The most common smell is that of freshly cut grass.  Since I have hay fever, I hold my breathe, but I still know its there.

Surprisingly, at least to me, is that the second most common smell is laundry soap.  Both strong and easily recognizable, I never realized how much scent I was putting out when I did my laundry.

Its a shame we are more and more isolated from the outdoor world.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I'm in Love with my Car

Although this is an old video, I had never seen it before.  Good car songs are few and far between.

I love the line, "Tell my girl, I have to forget her.  Gotta buy me a new carburetor."

Great images!  Someone had access to a really good library of video.

And, although the video isn't great, here is one of my favorite unknown car songs by Little Village.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Two Bike the Same/Different

One of the things that surprised me most was how different in feeling the KLR and KTM were for handling.  Just looking at the bikes, you would think they were pretty similar.  Yet they are so different that I have needed 9000 miles and most of two riding seasons to learn how to ride the KTM, at least on twisty roads with good pavement.

The way that I think of it, you rode the KLR a little bit like a dirt bike, even on pavement.  The bike wanted a lot of lean angle to initiate the corner, so I would lean the bike without leaning my body to start the corner, then lean my body to balance the bike as the lateral acceleration required.  This is very different from the way sport bike riders are taught to enter a corner, but it worked on the KLR and I rode the KLR for almost 15 years, so it became my riding "style".

Using this riding style, I had great confidence in the front end and, because I didn't have much horsepower, I was able to enter corners at higher speeds and keep my momentum up.

Needless to say, this didn't work on the KTM.  Over the two years and 9k miles, I tried many different ideas, including the traditional approach of moving your body center of gravity to the inside of the curve before beginning entry and then keeping the bike as vertical as possible to stay on the middle of the tire.  In the end, it took a combination of the sports bike technique with the addition of leaning/moving my weight forward before the corner.  Without adding a bit of weight to the front end, I just didn't have any confidence in the front end on corner entry.

That got me to wondering, what was different between the bikes.  Looking at the specs, the difference remains a big question to me.

Lets start with rake and trail.  This diagram was borrowed from Motorcycle Cruiser on line and I thank them.

You might say, feeling the front end should have a lot to do with rake and trail.  Let's see;

KLR rake 28 deg., KTM rake 27 deg.  Not much difference there.
KLR trail 111 mm, KTM trail 112 mm

Wheelbase can have a big effect on handling and the feeling of responsiveness.  Maybe the KTM has a shorter, more responsive wheelbase.

KLR 1490 mm, KTM 1504 mm

Seat height, the KTM is 3/4" higher
Suspension travel, KTM has 3/4" more travel at both ends
Dry weight - finally a real difference - the KTM is 40 pounds or about 10% lighter without fuel.

Still, I can't see any of these specs explaining the differences in handling I see between the two bikes.  I still have a lot to learn about bikes and what makes them work.

Monday, June 25, 2018

How many bikes are enough?

Just a short thought.

For years, I thought one bike was fine.  Then I got the ZRX1200 and because it wasn't that comfortable, nothing really changed.  I found that I didn't ride very often locally, in part because it takes more effort to suit up and I was too lazy to do that for a 5 mile trip to the store.  Also, there was always a trip coming up and I wanted to clean up the bike, change the oil, adjust the chain and leave it ready for the next trip.  Riding around locally just meant I needed to do maintenance twice because of the local miles.

This year, I finally have the KTM working well, but I haven't found a new home for the KLR.  After doing maintenance on both bikes, I realized that I could leave the KTM ready for the trip and still ride the KLR.  Hmmmnnnn.....  Maybe having two bikes isn't such a bad idea.