Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thanks Parsla

I've spent the last month or so trying on the various name suggestions for the Fiat, plus a few ideas of my own. For example, Enzo is a really cool name that seems to go with the heritage and the color, but at only 100 hp, I just couldn't tell people the Fiat's name was Enzo with a straight face.

In the end, the name that grew on me and became natural was Guido. Parsla suggested this with all of the great reasons that it works.

1) Guido is the first-person, present conjugation of the Italian verb guidare ("to drive"). Naturally, I didn't know that, but Parsla did.
2) Guido was Luigi's sidekick in the original movie "Cars"
3) Slang for a working class Italian-American

The Fiat is definitely a working class Italian-American, but also Mexican. And it definitely loves to drive.

I decided to formalize this with a portrait in front of the Guidobono Concrete company. Now, Guidobono is actually a name of long standing, but if you take it apart and use some linguistic license, Guido bono can be interpreted as "certified Guido". So that's what my little red Fiat is, a certified Guido.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Funny Fingers

One of the things that makes each of us unique are the little genetic anomalies that only we own. Those of you who know me understand that my body is one major collection of genetic anomalies, so you won't be surprised to learn that I have funny fingers.

It turns out that my hand would be an XL glove size, but my index finger is about 1/4 inch longer than average which means I'm poking out of end of the first finger of any XL glove.

This has been a particular problem with motorcycle gloves where you are constantly using all your glove's finger length as your hand is wrapped around a motorcycle grip. For years, I've been seeking out XXXL or larger gloves, just to get the index finger long enough. The trouble with that is that the body of the glove is too large and wouldn't stay on in a crash.

This winter, I was trying to upgrade all of my safety equipment, including finding gloves with a combination of good fit, improved crash protection, cool in summer, some vibration absorption, and a reasonable amount of "feel" for the controls. Not an easy task, but it led me to an interesting glove and an interesting person.

First the person. Helmut Kluckner is the tall, skinny guy standing in the Michigan pullover in his shop. Helmut had sent me some insoles to improve the fit of my boots and didn't charge me for them. I sent him the pullover as compensation.

In addition to the curly hair and the Austrian accent, he is both a searcher for truth (in motorcycle safety gear) and an artist. I was lucky to visit his shop in San Jose and get the chance to meet Helmut in person.

As soon as I walked into his shop, he greeted me and as soon as I expressed an interest in gloves, he asked me to show him my hands. From a distance of 5 feet, he noticed that I have a long index finger and said that I must have trouble finding gloves to fit. Then, 'you look like an XL to me.' I guess all true artist are very visual people.

Then we wandered around the shop has he showed me how the gloves were made and had me try on several gloves of different types and sizes. In the end, he took a tracing of my hand and explained how they would use the length of an XXL index finger in an XL glove and then shorten the length of the little finger a little bit to get a perfect fit.

Through all this was a philosophical discussion about what it takes to design a safe motorcycle glove, the materials they use to make gloves, an example of a glove worn in a 100 + mph motorcycle racing crash, and finally, as we moved to try on boots, a discussions of motorcycle handling development and the way that your foot changes shape as you age.

Helmut is a proponent of having strong, tear resistant materials properly sewn together to avoid ripping while sliding. This is combined with padding materials which spread the force of an impact and absorb energy. He doesn't care for hard shell knuckle or finger protection and says that the edges between the hard material and the leather is often a place where the sewing fails and opens a hole in the glove during the accident. The vents and other edges are just a place for the ground to grab and tear the glove while you a sliding.

I am definitely buying into these ideas and am happy to get beyond the carbon knuckle, mass media approach to gloves. It comes third hand, but I read a blog online where a MotoGP doctor was quoted as saying that he wished more glove manufacturers would emulate the Helimot glove with it's padding instead of hard armor. If true, then Helimot is on the cutting edge of safety technology.

The gloves I bought are the F 108 hot weather gloves. The palms and all the leather are kangaroo leather which is strong but thin and with good feel. The back of the gloves are made of stretch Kevlar fabric which breathes easily. The fingers, upper palm, and thumb are just one thickness of kangaroo leather for good feel. The lower palm and the entire back of the glove are lined with an open cell foam that provides protection. The knuckles have multiple types of foam and thicker foam to provide impact protection.

The idea is good protection in a glove that is also breathable, but it doesn't stop there. When it gets truly hot, you just pour water into the inside of the glove. The open cell foam absorbs the water and it slowly evaporates and keeps your hand cool. Although it hasn't been hot enough to try it yet, Helmut says that the evaporation cooling will last 45 to 90 minutes, depending on how much air flows over the gloves.

Naturally, the fit was just right. The gloves are definitely stiff when new, but I'm breaking them in over time. So far, I have maybe 5 hours of riding in the gloves and I'm really enjoying them. Although you can't feel the airflow directly, the gloves definitely breath and stay cool. With all that protection, the gloves absolutely feel stout, but you don't feel restricted in your motion. The padding on the palm is very clever. It adds enough isolation that my fingers aren't buzzed after a couple hours riding, but the padding ends in just the right place. The finger and thumb feel practically naked with excellent touch and control on the bike.

For Doug's sake, I'll mention that they also make a nice touring glove, made entirely out of deer skin, Doug's favorite. The gloves don't come cheap, around $200, but then again, they are hand made, to fit my goofy hand, and made right here in the US. From the quality I see, they will probably last a lot longer than the cheap stuff I'm used to. Happy riding.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Imported from Detroit with a Twist

I was running errands last Saturday and noticed a van with the logo and name, "Motus" printed on the side. For those of you who don't know, Motus is a ground up motorcycle venture, designed and made in the US. A little farther on, I saw the Motus motorcycle sitting on the side of the road waiting for the truck and found it parked next my Fiat when I came out of the store. This time, I had my camera with me.

Of note, this bike had an Alabama license plate, which may indicate where the Motus will be made. That said, it was clearly an engineering development bike, from the uncovered and hand shaved seat foam to the support van following it around.

The van also said Pratt and Miller, which is the Detroit area engineering company hired to do the development of the Motus motorcycle. This is what I mean by "Imported from Detroit with a Twist". Detroit has gone through a lot of transformation over the years, but it is still has a lot of engineering expertise, like Pratt and Miller, and is still the place in the US that new "vehicles" are likely to be developed.

Isn't that tank shape delicious?

First of all, the sound. Honestly speaking, I thought it sounded a little thrashy to me. That is, too much mechanical noise and not enough music from the intake and exhaust. Maybe we need to give it the benefit of the doubt, however, since it was clearly a development bike and may not be representative. More than that, I only heard it from a distance and at idle or near idle. It may sound wonderful "on the pipe." The engine is an interesting concept, a V-4 pushrod gasoline direct injection engine, longitudinal in the bike, and with the crank axis tilted down at the front. It looks really good and aggressive. Of course, at 1645 cc, it's going to have some grunt.

The thing you can't see is how compact this bike looks. Maybe, the next time you see a Fiat 500, you can think back to how much shorter the bike looks than my little car. That is probably one of the big benefits of the pushrod V-4, it is very small for it's displacement and power.

With the test rider just taking a break for lunch, I had a chance to take a close look. Although this is just a development bike, the quality of the bike was very high. This is probably too much bike and too much money for a cheapskate like me, but I'm happy to see someone doing it right and doing it right here in Detroit. I don't know if I would ever need a high end bike like this. Then again, it is a touring bike. Maybe it would make sense someday.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

John's Great Adventure

John Deikis is a new friend with many of the same interests as me. Among those are British cars, especially old ones, motorcycles, and a mild taste for adventure. Maybe I should say that my taste for adventure is mild, but John may be addicted. Today we send him off on the 2011 Rallye to Reno where men in old cars travel across the country on Highway 50, known as the "loneliest highway". John is doing this in his old MG TD named 'Morris' and doing it to promote a charity, CURE Childhood Cancer. Now that's adventure.

Just an aside, it's a worthy charity that is worth supporting. If you can, please donate through the portal on John's website.

Meanwhile, John has been working all hours trying to get ready, but you never know what you are going to get. After a flawless 200 mile check ride, this morning he blew a fuse on his fuel pump and had to jumper the pump to get home.

You can follow John's trip on the kidscure blog above and possibly on his johns folly website shown in the picture.

I like the pic below. It kind of gives you that 1950's view of the car factory look. Note the little trailer attached to the TD. John is thinking he will pull into WalMart in the little towns and sleep in the trailer. Me, I'm thinking a bed and a shower sound good.

Good Luck John. We know you have everything under control, but good luck anyway.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Everything Changes

Everything always changes. You would think I would get used to that after all these years, but it keeps on surprising me. For example, this old Palm Pilot that I use for finding phone numbers. Boy is that out of date. Time to clean out a few old phone numbers too.

Recently, we had a reorganization at work and that means training a new boss and giving up one of the cars that I've worked on since conception (Dodge Journey). On the plus side, it means working again with K. Kaumeheiwa. We worked well together on Pacifica and will have a good time on this new project too. Still, it takes time to realign your thinking and get used to the new way things are going to be.

I guess all the changes got me thinking on a personal level. K and I are at the beginning of a new car concept. That means it will be a while before it gets into production. By the time it gets into production, I'll be pretty near Social Security age (62). Wow. By then, Medicare won't kick in until your 70, so I'll probably have time to work on one more new car after that before it makes sense to retire. It's hard to believe that I've only got 2 more cars in me. Time sure flies when you are having fun.

Note to others who have retired at 55. You are probably lucky dogs all, but I'm still enjoying working life, so I'm not complaining.

At the same time that I was changing my personal profile at work to list my new boss, I took a look at my emergency contacts. My father had been my main emergency contact for most of my working life. He is still doing OK, but he is no longer in a position to come running to my rescue, so it was time to change that. My sister was elevated to the number one emergency contact and she now has responsibility for just about the whole family. I also had to take my old friend Bob off the contact list, elevating my now responsible niece.

As I said, nothing stays the same. I'm just happy to be healthy, aware of the days passing, and enjoying them one by one.