Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Three-Wheel Motorcycle MOST Training with the Iron Buffalo Motorcycle School.

Disclaimer: The cost of the course was sponsored by Colorado State Patrol’s MOST program and I am compensated for this article as well.

Recently, I was contacted by the Colorado State Patrol’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) program.  They asked if I’d like to take one of the several training courses offered under MOST by several of the area’s motorcycle training schools.

Training is always a good thing, even though I had already gone through and passed both the two-wheel and three-wheeled courses with T3RG and Abate’s training programs; refresher training in my favorite mode of transportation was of course a good idea.

It’s not sufficient, you see, to take a basic course and just leave it at that.  There’s always the need to practice what you learn at said courses, practice until action becomes “muscle memory” and is something automatic.  When the traffic situation arises calling for the training given at these courses, there’s no time to think of what to do - your body and mind must know and act decisively to avoid a problem.

I chose to take my MOST training at the Iron Buffalo Motorcycle School, but there are plenty of options to choose from on MOST’s website so you can find a class that’s in your area and right for you. There were nine students total including yours truly and two very good instructors for this 3 Wheel Motorcycle training course: Richard (Wiff) and Kent.

A short word on the instructors: Superb. Both Wiff and Kent are very knowledgeable, and patient, always making sure the material was understood before moving on.  Their use of humor interspersed with the material, along with examples from their riding experiences helped reinforce the key concepts and kept things moving along nicely.

We met at 8:00 AM this past Saturday morning at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium in Commerce City and spent I think a couple of hours going through the initial modules published by the Evergreen Safety Council for Motorcycle Training in one of the stadium’s viewing suites.

Day one topics ranged from what to look for in protective gear, pros and cons of three-wheeled vehicles, risk awareness, basic identification and use of controls along with related safety checks.  This was then reinforced out on the “range”; one of the parking lots for the stadium, on the vehicles we’d be using to train.

Each exercise was first briefed by one of the instructors.

Iron Buffalo provided the use of three Can-Am Spyders, two of which were the touring model and one that was the F3 model which is “sportier”.  There was also a 2013 Ural Patrol Sidecar rig that belonged to Wiff. One of the students opted to ride his own 2014 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide and yours truly rode Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol.

Scarlett on the left, the Can-AM F3 next to her, Wiff’s 2013 Patrol 
and the two RT models of Can-AM Spyders.

Tony’s 2014 HD Tri-Glide

We would spend the rest of the day riding, ending at around 2:30 PM on the first day.  We got familiar with the motorcycles (for those not riding one’s own ride) and doing basic maneuvers such as right and left turns, stopping safely both in a straight line and within painted curve lines on the parking lot and most importantly,  becoming familiar with the handling characteristics of three-wheeled motorcycles.

They are, after all, entirely different beasts than two-wheeled motorcycles.  This course will teach you to be safe on such a conveyance. The instructors took turns both briefing us before each exercise and then demonstrating the exercise to make it clear what was expected of each student.

Day two we moved into more advanced subjects such as how to drive defensively, especially making sure we understood safe driving concepts such as good following distance, scanning ahead and using SLADE (Scan, Locate, Assess, Decide, Execute) to prioritize oncoming threats and possible issues before it’s too late.

Defensive driving techniques were discussed and key points emphasized and stability issues related to three-wheeled motorcycles are highlighted along with techniques to deal with same.  Finally, advanced topics such as driving on steep, tight turning roads with perhaps loose traction were brought up and techniques discussed, which would later be reinforced on the range.

Of course, no motorcycle training course is complete without a reminder of the hazards and perils of driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs or other dangerous factors.

On the range, we had fun going through the several exercises which taught us proper body positioning on turns and how to swerve safely on three wheels in case of unexpected obstacles. Safe stopping within curves was further emphasized with more complex exercises requiring one to think and multi-task successfully while moving.  It was challenging at times, but fun as things begin to “click” within everyone’s mind.

Dave learns “the feel” of when the sidecar wheel leaves the ground 
and how to deal with it properly.

Wiff taking his rig through one of the curve 
negotiation exercises, showing us how it’s done.

Note his body position to offset the forces 
causing the sidecar to lift during the turn.

Ken, above and John, below shifting their bodies to compensate for the forces induced by the curve exercises.  Both are under the watchful eye of Wiff.

The Can-Am Spyders proved themselves to be very safe and stable three-wheeled motorcycles.  They and the HD Trike were very hard to cause a wheel to come off the ground, but the students learned to ride properly to prevent such occurrences anyways.
Dave, flying the chair, on purpose for the first time.

Yours truly, thinking about the new things learned and 
old concepts reinforced.

Finally, there came the last two exercises involving just Dave and I, the two sidecar rig riders.  The objective was to learn to “fly the chair” intentionally.  All previous training had been designed to help us keep the sidecar’s wheel down on the ground during tight right hand turns; now it was time to get a feel for maneuvering a sidecar rig with the sidecar wheel in the air! Dave, by the way, on these his first days of riding a sidecar rig, turned out to be a natural at flying the chair.

It was quite satisfying to me, as I am sure it was to the instructors, watching students go from tentatively making a turn on three wheels to confidently negotiating much more complex exercises!

Both Wiff and Kent did an outstanding job making sure we learned the concepts and correcting us when we didn’t quite get things right.  Their clear instructions rounded out the material and usually by the second attempt, we’d get it right!

I’ve been riding since 2006, with my first day on a motorcycle being the day I took the Basic Rider Course with T3RG Motorcycle School.  Since then, I’ve taken and learned so much with the Experienced Rider Course, Civilian Top Gun Riding course and of course the Three- Wheel Riding course that I heartily endorse such training courses.

You cannot get too much training.  You cannot practice too much.  Take one of these courses under Colorado StatePatrol’s MOST program: You’ll be a safer rider and enjoy this sport much more. If you want to take a MOST class, you can sign up for one here

Thursday, May 17, 2018

In the first half of May....

A little bit of catch up being done with this posting, no real events but one and that one is on hold in terms of being posted due to issues beyond my control.

The R3W steering damper has worked out great for Scarlett, I've had zero instances of "head shake" and she takes bumps and pot holes with steadiness and surety now.

We had us some rain on May 3 and here's a pic of Scarlett getting wet under rainy Colorado skies; a rather uncommon occurrence I assure you.

Rainy Sunset

The next day, the fourth, proved somewhat better in terms of sunset conditions:

 Hazy conditions for the capital of the Stoner State

May 5th through the 6th, I went through what was to me a refresher Basic Rider Course for riders of Three-Wheeled motorcycles.  Much more to follow but for now, just a pic of me during the class:

May 7th's sunset was pretty good:

May 9th's sunset was better:

The sunset on the 10th was the best of the month of May so far:

Some mechanical notes for record:

Replaced the clutch cable on Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer, I discovered the end at the handlebar lever quite frayed!  Luckily, I had a spare but am still tweaking the adjustment a bit.  Quite different from a URAL's clutch cable adjustment on the gearbox side.

Scarlett: After much fiddling with the original issue being a high idle when engine was hot and unable to get it to idle at 1000 rpm AND be balanced per the Harmonizer tool; I opted for correct RPMs and skewed balance at idle.  The left side throttle body is somehow letting air in (checked all components, no luck); which causes vacuum higher on the right.

Once off idle though, and through the gears, the throttle bodies are balanced withing 4 mbars of center!  She sounds better too, not racing when at idle and engine warm.  Hopefully, I'm not doing long term damage.

Thinking of going camping again at the Hugo SWA (State Wildlife Area) this Sunday, but not for certain.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

New Steering Damper for Scarlett

All the trail riding riding in the Moab, UT area last week and before highlighted the fact that Scarlett's third stock steering damper had bit the dust.

I'd been feeling a bit of a head shake from her front wheel sporadically but maybe because it was so sporadic, maybe because it happened over a long enough period that I adapted to it or maybe because I'm just cheap....I'd delayed replacing it.

I wrote third, yep, the original and one more had been replaced (under warranty) by Ural.  Now that Scarlett's out of warranty coverage, options open up.

At Moab, I tried fellow Uralista Russ' rig which was equipped with "Sean's R3W" Steering Damper.  It turned and rode very nice I must say.  He rode Scarlett and was quite disturbed by the effect of the failed steering damper on her steering.

I got back from Moab and ordered the kit from Sean0262 (on sovietsteeds) and it arrived today.  Very nice communication (email), very fast delivery and great instructions.  Worth every penny of the $150 that this kit costs.  The replacement steering damper is north of $100+ I think so it's not much more.

The bonus is that the damper itself is a readily available Gabriel Steering Damper, not expensive at all ( less than $30 on amazon link below), if or when it should fail.

The kit though, with its brackets and hardware, are what make the kit a good buy...strong components, well made and designed, make the installation a true bolt-on job.

The kit fits the older Ural rigs along with the newer ones starting with 2014.  If you are having issues with the stock steering damper, consider this alternative!  Tell Sean I sent you!  :)

I went for a ride with the new steering damper, and could not induce headshake no matter what pothole or edge trap I hit.  No headshake when coming off the raised edge of the driveway either!  Yep, the expected initial resistance when going from a standing stop or real slow.  I'll have to find me some rough dirt trails to ride her on but I am confident Sean's R3W Steering Damper will do fine; after all, it's Moab-tested and proven!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Back in Colorado

Back in Colorado, the Stoner State....back to reality.  I hope its not too long till I can go boondocking again.

Been cleaning up UMA, the URRV and Scarlett from their travels.  Lots of Utah dirt on my driveway to be washed away.

And now, we resume the presentation of Colorado Sunsets.....

 Denver Skyline

 Clouds illuminated by the sunset

One last look at the Denver Skyline