Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sonoma Coast

Sometimes a nice picture is just that. I was looking through some old pictures for something else, when I found this one of the Sonoma Coast of California at sunset. I've been lucky to have the opportunity to visit some very nice places in my life. The trick is that, most of the time, its been for business, not pleasure. The plus side of that is that I got to see a wide range of interesting places without having to pay for it. However, it would have been great to come back to some of these romantic places with some special lady. At this particular romantic spot, I was there with five Japanese engineers. Oh well, at least I get to take pictures.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tall Guy Flying on Two Wheels

OK, not that kind of flying. I'm old, slow, and like to keep 2 wheels on the ground. I'm talking about riding standing up, which is something us tall guys don't usually know much about. You see, the proper way to ride a motorcycle on soft surfaces like dirt or sand is to be standing up and use your feet to help to steer. I know its sounds crazy, but it really works. At 6' 5”, my attempts to stand and ride in the proper dual sport position have been frustrating on my stock KLR. When I stand, I'm bent over too far, my butt is hanging out the back, and my fore-aft balance does not give confidence. So I got some help from John Chamberlin to measure how much higher the handlebars should be for the correct riding position. What we came up with was 3.5 to 4 inches.

So, after months of procrastinating, off I went to the internet searching for handlebar risers and came across RoxSpeedFX and their innovative isolated handlebar risers. Wow! What a great idea. I truly wanted to get rid of some of the buzz in the handlebars on long rides and these riser not only raised the handlebars, but have rubber in them to reduce vibration. I would have bought them in a heartbeat, but the tallest isolated risers for the KLR were 2”, a little short of the 4” it looked like I needed.

Being cheap and somewhat resourceful, I found an old chunk of aluminum in my basement, came up with some rubber bushings that I thought might work, and figured out a design for taller heights. First, I wanted to be able to easily modify the riser height, since I wasn't sure that I would like the 4” riser. Next, I decided that the taller riser needed the bushing to be close to the handlebar so that the bushing wouldn't flex too much when I pulled back on the bars. After a little time in the machine shop, here is what I came up with.

Like the RoxSpeed design, I have a short section of round aluminum to go into the KLR's handlebar clamps. The rectangular part of the riser is easy to cut shorter if 4” proved too tall. The rubber bushing has a steel tube molded into the inside of the rubber and a bolt with washers to capture it attach to the end of the lower riser. The new handlebar clamp grabs the handlebar and has a split clamp that grabs the outside of the bushing. I made the handlebar clamp big enough that I could bore it out for 1 1/8” bars in the future, but I doubt I'll ever need that. Overall, its not very pretty, but it fits and gives me the adjustment I wanted. Not counting the aluminum and my time, I had about $8 of hardware into this project at this point.

Before I could ride the bike, I needed to “stretch” the clutch and throttle cables. There is room for a little taller handlebar on the KLR, but not a lot. Naturally, that was its own adventure, but I'll come back to that later.

Once I had the controls working again, it was time to check it out. What a feeling! Standing as natural as you please with the wind ripping by your body as you fly through the air standing up. As the Brits say, Brilliant! I had excellent control of the bike, steering easily with my feet, and comfortably using the shifter, throttle, and brakes. The little bit of soft road close to home showed an amazing increase in confidence and control on soft surfaces and I could stand up comfortably for as long as I wanted.

But unfortunately, the seated ride was another story. Its really hard to believe, but 4 little inches of handlebar height is amazingly different. I felt like I was riding with ape hangers. My arms weren't relaxed and were too bent to get a good feeling of control. As much fun as standing riding was with the 4” risers, the seated riding was worse. I needed to find a compromise.

So back to the machine shop and out comes a new, lower riser. The new part is 2 3/4” rise and its a much better compromise. I can still stand pretty well, just a little more bend at the knees. I'm reaching a bit more for brakes and clutch while standing, but its a ton better than stock. Seated riding took a little getting used to but is nothing like the ape hanger 4” rise. And I have my rubber handlebar isolation.

After that, it was just a little experimentation with rubber stiffness. I milled little holes in the rubber to soften it up and ended up with something that works quite well. The high frequency buzz at highway speeds is just plain gone. The mirrors are much clearer, although not perfect. At least I can finally distinguish a cop from other cars behind me. Steering hasn't suffered at all. I can't feel the flex that I know must be happening. The strange thing is that the lower frequency vibrations are a little more noticeable. I'm not sure if I've unmasked the low frequency because the high frequency buzz is gone or because the softer mounting lets the bar vibrate at lower frequencies. Which ever reason, I don't care, because the overall result is sweet. No more numb hands for me.

OK. Here I am with only about $8 into this project and I need to “stretch” my clutch and throttle. I was able to buy the parts to make new, longer throttle cables for about $30 and could have managed a clutch cable, but I got caught by a case of the “Might as Wells”. I've been frustrated by the KLR clutch efforts, especially when caught in traffic on a hot day when the exhaust heat soaks into the cable and doubles the efforts. Dual Star and their wonderful Magura hydraulic clutch was calling to me. I couldn't resist. So with Dual Star's help with a longer clutch hose, I managed to turn a $40 project into a $340 project. By the way, totally worth it.

Of course, the KLR handguard wouldn't mount to the Magura clutch perch, so I need to come up with new handguards. Happily, the Magura has an optional mirror mount available and I took advantage of that to make a handguard mount for the new Powermadd handguards. One thing leads to another.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Motorcycle Maintenance

Most have heard of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". You may have also heard of "Just in Time Manufacturing". This is a case of "Just in Time Maintenance. Maybe it more like, "Almost too late Maintenance".

The sprocket on the right is the new sprocket, what the drive sprocket is supposed to look like. The sprocket on the left is the old one that I just removed. Oops. Note in the photo above that the teeth have curled over on the top like a wave about to crash. Also notice the large space between teeth.

In the photo below, notice the wave on either side of the teeth. Those weren't there originally and have been created by the chain links wearing into the sprocket.

I guess all I can say is that I'm glad I didn't wait and that I double checked my procedure for checking chain tension and found I had been doing it wrong. Oops again.

Gidget's Moving On

As some of you may know, as much as I enjoy driving Gidget, I haven't been driving her much over the last few years, primarily because I end up with a migraine headache a few hours later. I had never planned on selling her, but sometimes your body forces the issue.

For those of you who don't know, Gidget is my very first car that I bought back in 1976 while I was in college so that I could get to a summer job at GM Proving Grounds. I actually found the original application for title for the car from 1976. It cost me $800, paid $32 in sales tax, and the registration fee was $2.

I had lots of adventures in Gidjet along the way and have had lots of fun making modifications and improvements. Still, with the migraines, she wasn't getting much exercise and it seemed unfair to leave a car that was so much fun to drive sit around in the garage.

Along came Steve Baumbach. Steve is in my department at work and lives and breathes cars the way that I do. He expressed and interest in buying Gidjet, and after a weekend of living with her, decided to buy her. I'm really pleased that Steve has bought her because he seems to really enjoy driving her. I hope he has a lot of fun for a long time.

Of course, things haven't started out all that well. After a long weekend of driving, Steve came to me and said that Gidget has developed a vibration. Happily, we put her on the lift and found it was a worn out U-joint in the prop shaft, so its easy to fix. In the meantime, Gidjet is back for a visit while waiting for the new parts to come in.

You may have noticed that I have spelled Gidjet with either a 'g' or a 'j'. Over the years, I've had license plates with either spelling, mainly depending on availability. In the end, I guess it doesn't matter since the name Gidget comes from the idea that Austin Healy Sprites and MG Midgets are almost the same car and are called Spridgets. OK, that's not the only reason. This car has more personality than most and may have picked her own name.

In honor of the 32 years of travelling around with Gidjet, I hope to post a few stories from our adventures over the next few weeks.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bill Bastow and John Truer

I had a nice lunch with Bill Bastow yesterday. For those of you who don't know him, Bill raced sedans as seriously as his money would allow from getting out of college until well into his 40's. He is a man that I have always admired, for his intelligence, his commitment, and his generosity. Along the way, he and his friend, John Truer, formed a partnership in racing. John has passed, but its nice to remember him. John is the hard working gent on the left who has clearly been working on the car. Bill is in the driver's suit looking like a movie star driver on the right.

I'm not sure who took these pictures. I helped Bill scan them from slides. This one is a particularly artistic shot of their Toyota at speed.

Another nice shot of 70's racing. I'll bet you don't see most of these car in historic races today.

A tip of the hat to both Bill and John and their efforts in 20 + years of racing.