Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Battery LiFE Po-or

Sometimes, new technology like that from electric cars and bikes provides an interesting advantage for our old, existing technology. The KLR is typical of many motorcycles with a smallish, flooded lead acid battery that works OK for a while but seems to need water constantly and, even though I keep it warm and charged through winter, lasts 2 years and then dies.

I have been laying out $50 every 2 years for a while now, so I got curious about what else is out there. I found more expensive Yuasa Micron batteries ($70) and AGM sealed batteries ($100 - 120), but they are still just lead-acid and I've heard that the life improvement is little or none.

Then I came across the Turn Tech battery. It uses Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFE Po) chemistry that is made up of sealed cells with very low self-discharge (<1%/month). The weight savings are amazing. My lead acid battery weighs almost 11 pounds on my scale. The Turn Tech, less than 2 pounds! You can think of that as a 9 pound savings or an 82% weight savings. That can't be bad.

Even more interesting, the Turn Tech is rated at 250 amps at 70 deg F. That's plenty of power to start my KLR which spins up easily every time.

How about life? This graph from the Turn Tech website shows cranking for 18 seconds per start. My bike usually starts in about 1 second, maybe 3 seconds on a cold start. Assuming this curve stays linear, even at 18 seconds cranking, this battery should last more than 9000 cycles. If I started the bike 4 times a day, every day of the year, that would be about 6 years. In reality, I don't get to ride every day and my riding season is only about 7 months per year. At that rate, I am hopeful that it will last 6 years or more. All without watering. Yeah.

The cost of this 5 Ah battery is about $160 or about 3 times the cheap, flooded lead-acid. Its worth it for the no maintenance, weight improvement, and just to know you have something "high tech" in your bike. If it lasts anything more than 6 years, I'm ahead of the game.

Of course, nothing is perfect. You can't put this on a bike where there is a constant current drain from a clock or other electronics. My KLR is dead as a door nail when the key is off, but this thing is only 5 Ah capacity, so it will discharge from a current drain a lot faster than the 14 Ah battery its replacing. If you do let it discharge, its a one way trip to a 2 pound paper weight. This chemistry doesn't come back from a deep discharge. They also don't recommend it for bikes bigger than a 650, although Turn Tech will make you a custom battery for special applications.

I'm such a geek. Thanks Turn Tech.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Imagery of Old Times

It looks like the company is going to be getting me a cell phone and I'll be joining, at least during working hours, the majority that carries these damn things around. I guess I'm an old, anti-social curmudgeon because I really don't have any use for these things in my non-working life. In the past, when I have had a cell phone, I've gone weeks without a personal call.

I'm convinced that these things are an overall detriment to society and personal communication. Oh sure, people communicate more because they can do it anytime, but the quality of thought and of communication degrades in the process.

People seem to think they need to be connected at all times. Here are two things that I won't be doing. Driving while talking on a phone and putting on lipstick.

This is off the list too. Although, I won't promise not to talk on the phone when sitting on the toilet. I will promise not to flush until the call is finished.

The basic problem is that cell phones and, especially texting, is that imagery in language is traded off for brevity. "What up dog? RU home?"

So in celebration of imagery in language, here are a few sayings from a time when people liked to use there imagination as part of communicating. Not say its artistic, but....

The cleanest of these was a saying my mother used often. When the storm was clearing and there were patches of blue in the sky, she would say, "The weather is going to clear. There is enough blue for Dutchman's britches."

From an old movie I saw recently. "You remind me of me, kid. Your cocky. I came here with nothing but a fiddle and a hard-on. I've still got the fiddle."

My friend Garl has shared some favorite sayings from his late father.

"He is as dumb as a box or an ox."

"He is so dumb he couldn't pour piss from a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Family Tradition

When I was a kid, my dad was always interested in technology, gadgets as he called it. Whenever he bought something new, whether it was a toy or something practical, the very first thing he would do would be take it apart. Not so far that he would break it, but as far as he could to see how it was made and how it worked.

Being my father's son, I've grown up doing the same thing. Today, its even better, because you can explore technology online, join a forum and ask silly questions, or email the manufacturer with detailed questions. You might even get an answer.

If you want to take something new apart, there is probably someone online that has already made a video of disassembling some new toy. For example, the iPad.

This may be a family tradition, but it looks like we are not alone.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Anti-Vibration Gloves

Sorry if this blog has turned into motorcycle product reviews recently. I'll try to get to some other subjects in future.

I guess riding a thumper, I've been more interested in the subject of vibration than maybe other riders have. Although, I've had other people tell me my bike has less vibration than their multi-cylinder bikes. In fact, even the 4 cylinder ZRX buzzes my hands after an hour.

There are several sources online that suggest that vibration can be damaging long term and I want to be riding a long time. They say that, if your hands tingle or become numb after riding, its a sign of temporary nerve damage from the vibration. The problem is that the nerve damage is cumulative and will eventually become permanent.

Wanting to avoid damage, I started out with Olympia Gel gloves and foam hand grips. On the way, I've tried Qwi gloves (which were probably worse than normal gloves), bar end weights (both bought and home made, better), and rubber isolated handlebar risers. About the only thing I haven't tried is a bar snake.

With the possible exception of the bar end weights which made highway wobble a little worse, everything has been "somewhat" helpful and haven't degraded the riding experience. The isolated risers did the most, but still, there is some buzz in the handlebars.

This spring, I came upon Chase Ergonomics (chaseergo.com) who makes gloves with a vibration absorbing foam in the palm and fingers. These are actually aimed at industrial use, but they weren't too expensive, so I gave them a try. I bought a pair of Decade Drivers Style gloves with Gfom padding for vibration absorption. Although called a drivers glove, they are really just goatskin work gloves. As motorcycle gloves, they are not perfect. But what wonderful vibration control! These were easily the biggest step in my quest for vibration isolation.

So what does it feel like? Imagine you put a 1/4" of soft foam inside all of the fingers and palm and tried to grip through this sponge and you will have a pretty good idea. There are those who talk about dexterity and "feel" and this is not the glove for them. That said, I don't feel I'm giving up any control and I'm gaining a lot in isolation. I guess its not for everybody and its an acquired taste for some others.

What does this stuff do? A single cylinder engine like the KLR is running about 5000 rpm down the highway. Just to make the math easier, we'll call it 4800 rpm. At that speed, the piston is going up and down at 80 Hz. The engine fires every other revolution, so the engine firing frequency is 40 Hz. That will be the fundamental vibration frequency coming into the handlebars. Traditionally, engines make vibration at 2x, 3x, and 4x the firing frequency, so we should see vibration from 40 Hz up to 160 Hz from the engine and more as the bike resonates. As you can see from the graph, Gfom reduces the vibration by more than half at 40 Hz. Even more at higher frequencies.

OK, great idea but the driver style gloves are not a perfect motorcycle glove. As they currently have motorcycle gloves with gel padding, I emailed Chase Ergonomics and got a nice reply from their president.

"We are aware that some of the most popular bikes present hand/arm vibration exposure for serious riders. We will build on our initial Decade MC glove styles. We chose to open with a Gpact(R) line because existing brands already had established "gel" gloves on the market and we thought that we could make better ones. As we build our line, you make a very good point that adding full palm and finger Gfom(R) pads makes a lot of sense.

Gary D. Shumate
Chase Ergonomics, Inc."

First of all, thanks to Gary for responding and his interest in motorcycle gloves. On his suggestion, I purchased a pair of the new Decade Summerweight gloves which are a lot closer to a motorcycle application. The white goatskin will undoubtedly show road grime with time, but at less than $34 on Amazon, I'm impressed with the quality and comfort. The best thing is the little pad of foam and leather sewn in the junction between the finger and thumb that fits perfectly on the handlebar grips.

I know I sound like an advertisement for these gloves, but what I'm really trying to do is generate enough interest in this market that Chase will move forward with a motorcycle specific glove using this technology.

Ain't technology grand?