Saturday, June 30, 2007

The JCWhitney Top Case is going back and I get a bike cover.

Original post re the case is here.

Well, although I had been quite happy with the top case overall, the lock failed this week. I accidentally put my motorcycle's ignition key in the lock and found I could actuate the lock with the key stuck in halfway and unlock the case! Later I tried it with a flat tip screwdriver, same results with just a tiny effort.

Tried a couple of times to replace the failed lock mechanism with cam locks from Lowes Hardware but was totally unsuccessful. So, I called J.C. Whitney and they're arranging for Fedex to pick it up from me on 3JUL at no cost to me. I'll get a refund once they get it back and the search for a top case will restart perhaps.

Maybe, I don't really need one and it was just the upcoming long distance trip to Wisconsin that has spurred the buying of the case and some other stuff recently. Then again, who amongst us motorcyclists needs much of an excuse to buy more stuff for our motorcycles.

Case in point, I received today a motorcycle cover I got from Ebay for $35, shipped. I think I got a good deal, it covers Maria up completely with room to spare, has a securing strap to keep in on in windy conditions and even holes to access the wheels to put on my motorcycle lock. Kind of looks like Shamu the killer whale don't it? : )

I hope to be able to pack it onboard Maria for the trip, to place on her while overnighting at motels and such. Out of sight, out of mind....and potential thieves or just nosy folks will leave her alone when I am not around.

Changing out the fluids on Maria, prior to the Wisconsin Trip

Temps from mid-80s to low 100s according to the thermometer on my motorcycle. I gotta tell ya, it was hot! I was using my cooling vest when I rode mid-morning to the dealer and I was glad to have it as I ended up chatting for a bit with Bruce, the president of the Colorado Beemers who I ran into at the dealer.

Less than ten days now before the trip to West Bend, WI. I decided to go ahead and change out not only the engine oil but also the transmission and final drive oil. I checked my Clymer's Manual and the procedure is pretty straightforward. Maria has 33,160 on her odometer so I am actually 1.44k early for her 6k oil change interval and 17 months early for replacing the transmission/final drive fluid. See note at end as to why I decided to replace these fluids so early.

I drained the transmission and final drive of fluids ten minutes after I returned home. A bit of a mess ensued from the transmission drain hole as I was not quite prepared correctly for the way the stuff comes out. I'll know better next time. The oil from the final drive was not messy but had to rig a small paper ramp to lead the stuff from the drain hole to the collection pan. Otherwise, it drips all over the rear tire! It's a small amount, less than one liter from the final drive, so I just caught it in a measuring cup and let the remnants drip onto prepositioned newspaper.

I then followed the manual, replaced the crush washers that come with the BMW Oil Filter kit. Now I know what the extra washers are for that I've been accumulating during the last three oil changes. : )

Refilling both the transmission and final drive was pretty easy, just measured using the measuring cup to as close as I could read to what the manual specified. I used the new torque wrench I bought after I learned how to adjust valve clearances to tighten the drain plugs and fill plugs.

A ten minute test ride later, no leaks and the motorcycle seemed to be riding well.

Now, came the changing of the engine oil, it went pretty easily as the last couple of times I did it. A 30 minute test ride later, no leaks and once again Maria just fine.

Another small step towards becoming a wrencher for my motorcycle. Next big hurdle comes in November when I try and bleed the brakes and the ABS unit.

Note, although the oil from the transmission came out as dark brown oil as expected, the stuff from the final drive was dark gray/black! There was a very small amount of collected fillings on the magnetic drain plug which I made sure to wipe off before replacing the plug. Kind of makes me wonder if the dealer actually did replace my final drive oil as was billed to me back in November of last year.

I think I might start doing the final drive more often, perhaps each time I change the oil, rather than every two years per the manual. Just in case, you know?

Very glad I replaced the final drive/transmission oils, now I know for sure it's been done as opposed to trusting the dealer who will not see my money for services anymore.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The GPS software is finally licensed.

Finally got the issue resolved re the licensing code for the GPS software from Navicore for my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet.

Ran into one connectivity issue along the way, it apparently uses TCP Port 9000 so I could not connect to the Navicore server from my work PC. Had to do it via my phone's internet connection, after that all was well. Geek talk aside, this means that you may have issues registering your own unit if behind a firewall. Keep that in mind.

I took the unit out for a spin and the standard daylight display was quite usable. Not very bright but usable with the display settings on maximum of course. The GPS receiver connected via Bluetooth just fine, took it over five minutes to get a GPS fix the first time though. The second time seemed faster. Will have to time it better next time as well. I checked out the night display and truly its for night use only, totally not usable in daylight. I tried the bright sunlight display for a bit and definitely more high contrast but then I could not see my positional arrow. More testing to be done.

I searched for the address of the locksmith I was running the errand to and off I went. I kept expecting to hear the voice prompts telling me where to turn and such. Nothing. I did see the road (I was in 3D) move as I did, an arrow showing myself but no route directions or arrows pointing the next turn like regular GPS's I'd seen.

So, I get to the locksmith (I knew where I was going), do the errand then go back to the motorcycle to explore the GUI a bit more. Turns out I have to "Find Route", then I am asked again for the destination address, (I had originally selected the "Find Address option), it already lists your present location as the start point of course. So I put my workplace address in, and first thing it told me was "please move closer to a road on a map". I guess it can't do much till one is back on something it knows about vice a parking lot. : )

I got back on the road and it started giving me voice prompts and turn guides on the upper right of the screen. The route it had picked out was highlighted on the display in green and easy to see (remainder of the roads were in yellow). However it did not pick the optimal route, perhaps based on the preferences it comes with, will have to look into that. I took the route I knew was best and it would "adjust" or re-route accordingly within a few seconds at most.

I am sure this is configurable, but the voice prompts to turn were sometimes not very timely if I had not already known I was turning. However, it was very nice to be able to hear the prompts. The female voice, Sarah, was very clear over the noise of the motorcycle.

More testing is involved and more delving into the software's capabilities remain to be done but its working!

Monday, June 25, 2007

More testing of the cooling vest; using the N800 without a sunshade

Temps in the mid 80s to apparently a high of 100. My motorcycle's thermometer never went above 97.1. Sunny and hot but with southerly winds gusting enough to get your attention.

I did not go riding till 1430 hrs, waiting for the heat of the day to build up to further test the cooling vest's ability to help with the heat. I also went ahead and removed the homemade sunshade from the N800's windshield mount to see how the display did without its shading effect.

The cooling vest took over six hrs to fully dry out overnight, pretty good, and something to keep in mind when using it as a commuting aid. I recharged it again just before I headed out, this time wearing an Everlast brand long-sleeved compression t-shirt. Initial contact with my body, like last time, was nice and cooling...almost cold. It helps keep your cool as you don the rest of the riding gear. Again, I chose the clear visor for my helmet and no sunglasses, relying solely on the tape on the visor to block sun glare to my eyes.

I rode out East on CO30 or Quincy Road, taking the road to Watkins when it presented itself. Again, it's hottest when one apparently rides in same direction as the wind which was coming from the South. Perhaps it's a feature of motorcycles with full fairings, not sure. As I neared Watkins, I took the I-70 Slab eastward. I stopped in Strasbourg to tank up and then proceeded onwards towards the town of Limon.

The vest was keeping me cool just fine as before. I noticed however that the long sleeves on my compression t-shirt were actually helping more to keep my arms cool than just having a short sleeved t-shirt on. I'll have to get more of these for the trip I think.

The N800's display was pretty washed out in the direct sunlight again, some of the features on the screen were still visible but I believe a sunshade will be a mandatory item for usage on a motorcycle. Since I was still lacking the license code for the Navicore software, was still using the freeware Maemo Maps application. I basically ran it in the background, listening to the N800s media player and my tunes as I rode, occasionally switching (with some repeated attempts due to using gloves and the small GUI icons) back to the mapping utility to see where I was on the map.

I must say the mounting kit that came with the Navicore unit is starting to grow on me. While it does preclude me from moving the windshield up and down, it does hold the unit quite steady(minor vibrations), is fully adjustable as to viewing angles, and I could switch tunes easily while on the move. For those of you who might be interested in the mounting kit for your use: Windshield Mount: Nokia Type HH-12, the plastic holder for the N800 which screws onto the windshield mount: Nokia Type CR-86. I don't know if these are available separately from Nokia.

I was nearing Limon when I spied the exit sign for CO86 which leads you to Kiowa. I elected to do this and enjoyed this dual lane county road (mostly straightaways)in the afternoon heat with nice views of rolling terrain dotted with mostly ranches and many cattle basking in the heat. Cooling vest was doing it's job nicely, camelback kept me hydrated and I just enjoyed the road listening to tunes. Once I got past Kiowa I could plainly see two thunderstorm cells approaching from the South and West. Quite a lightning display from the one to the South so once I got to Elizabeth I headed North via county roads, away from the storm.

I managed to outrun the Southern storm cell and did not catch up with the Northern storm cell so no need to stop and stow away the N800. It is of course not even close to water resistant so it's another thing to keep in mind. I am not sure the N800 will catch on with motorcyclists as a device to use not only for tunes but for GPS, and FM radio. If it does, I hope some manufacturer comes up with a nice waterproof casing for it with a built-in sunshade perhaps. At this point, I'd settled for a nice looking sunshade.

I do plan on taking the N800 with me on the ride to the BMWMOA National Rally next month so it'll be a good workout for the GPS software and the mounting kit.

So, a three hour ride, in apparently mid 90s weather (the strong southerly winds helped keep things bearable along with the cooling vest). Saw many bikers out, with not much in the way of protective riding gear however. The cooling vest was still cooling me off when I arrived home. About 150 miles of riding, N800 still usable in terms of display controls. I was not however able to read the tune titles in the built-in media player, but was able to actuate the virtual controls for tune switching.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Testing N800's display using Maemo Mapper and testing my new evaporative cooling vest.

I went riding this afternoon, temps from mid-80s to low 90s at one point I think. Sunny with a few clouds and a pleasant breeze for the most part which helped keep the heat down.

Two objectives today: 1. Field test the evaporative cooling vest from Techniche that I bought from for $31, shipped. 2. See how the N800 screen does with a small sunshade in place, me with a clear visor and no sunglasses.

First the evaporative vest, it charges up with water in 2-3 minutes as advertised. Felt nice and cool but not as cool as having just a wet tshirt on. However, the cooling effects lasted well past the two hour mark as I rode in the plains east of Denver, towards Elizabeth, then back west to Parker on CO86, which I took to Castlerock, then Wolfenberger Rd to CO105 down to Larkspur, on the I-25N slab back to founders parkway, back to Parker and home via Orchard Rd just past Arapahoe Rd. The cooling effect was fine until the 2.5 hr mark then I started to feel the heat a little bit and sweat just a tiny bit.

I had been hydrating the whole ride from the camelback as well which helps keep the core cooled down. When I finally got home, I took the vest off and it still felt cool to the touch and still a bit water-laden. I think the 2 hour mark is the point where one should consider "recharging" it with more water to enhance its by then waning cooling effect. So, happy with the purchase, it only made my tshirt very slightly damp.

Now for the N800's display while using GPS. While I am waiting for the license code for the Navicore GPS Software, I realized I could use the included GPS receiver with the N800 using the free software I'd downloaded before called Maemo Mapper. This is GPS/Mapping software that is freeware for this platform. I rigged up a small cardboard shield to help with the sun. See below.

An overall view of where the unit sits when mounted. This was while Maria was parked inside the garage.

Still inside, you can see the image is very usable while indoors

I rode about 120 miles or so today, and the screen was usable for the most part thanks to two factors. One, the cheesy but working cardboard shield I placed into the mount that helped provide shade to at least half the screen most of the time. My realization that the sunlight coming in via the top inch of my clear visor was causing glare on the visor and to my eyes, this was prevented by placing an inch-wide strip of duct tape on top edge of my visor. Once I had the duct tape in place, the screen was then more usable.

The only time the screen was pretty washed out, but still barely usable was when the sun was directly behind me, then it was pretty glaring. I will have to try it again tomorrow without the screen and see how it goes.

It was quite amusing watching the dot that was me, and the track that was created as I moved, move along the maemo maps' roads/streets which I'd downloaded from Google Maps. The freeware is not as sophisticated as I hope the Navicore software will be in that:

a. It did not increase/reduce map scale based on speed.
b. If you touched the screen, autocenter would turn off, had to stop the motorcycle and re-enabled autocenter by lead so that the map would scroll correctly.
c. It always maintaned North on the top of the map. I think it's the same with the Navicore software.
d. I did not try voice prompts since I did not know how to input a route for it to monitor.
e. Maemo Mapper does not carry all the US in the SD Memory card, it depends on Internet access to download maps as you need them if you did not previously download them prior to heading out. So I had to manually move the scales to find maps as I went that I had stored. No big deal if you pre-plan which within WiFi access to the Net.

Still, what do you want for free? It did confirm for me that my speedometer is about 3-5 mph faster than what I am actually going at on the motorcycle. It had a compass rosette but I had trouble seeing it in broad daylight. The maps showed up pretty good, the roads were yellow and the background was white so it showed up pretty good. I can only imagine the Navicore high contrast maps will be even better.

I did find that the display did not detract from safe riding of the motorcycle. A brief glance, such as when I scan all the instruments, also allowed me to periodically check my position on the map.

The GPS receiver that is bundled with the Navicore software worked like a champ, always had at least 9 if not more satellites locked in. It runs on a rechargeable battery and it had no issues to present. It just paired via Bluetooth with the Maemo Mapper software just fine and worked.

Navicore GPS Kit is here, initial observations, a new delay

So I got the kit from Womworld yesterday. I installed the software onto my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet and ran into the review's first major delay. The software license code reported itself as "already in use" when it connected to their server when installing and of course the GPS software will not run. I emailed womworld for a new code but since they're in Great Britain, they're gone for the weekend so the earliest I can expect to start using the gps software is Monday.

Yep, I tried calling their helpdesk using the number helpfully enclosed with the kit. However it's apparently a national holiday wherever the helpdesk is and I am out of luck till Monday as they don't do weekends.

Well, at the very least I could try out the mounting hardware that comes with the kit I told myself. The windshield attachment suction cup is very strong and holds things securely. Just make sure it does not wiggle once you engage the lock. The unit actually came off the windshield once, with my N800 mounted, and dropped to the floor! I think it was because I did not pay close attention. No harm done but something to be aware of, specially on a motorcycle! Luckily I had done the mounting right when I took the N800 out for a ride yesterday.

As I had suspected, the LCD screen is damn near useless in bright daylight. I was wearing the dark visor with my helmet and raising it out of the way helped a tiny bit but still the images were very washed out. This is a problem with all LCD screens on mobile electronics so no big surprise.

Once I get the license code activated for my N800, I hope to use the "high contrast" screen display on the GPS software. Maybe it'll help, maybe it won't. I've pretty much resigned myself to using the voice prompt feature when riding anyways. It will be much safer since it removes the temptation to look at the screen instead of paying attention to the road.

We'll see how the above works out, first I have get licensed!

The GPS receiver that comes with the kit is compact, charges via the enclosed usb power cable. Mating it to my N800 will also have to wait for the right license code.

Below are a couple of shots to demo the screen display quality while the motorcycle was parked out in the sunlight. Mounting point is the windshield as mentioned before. Note, using the windshield on a motorcycle means you can no longer raise or lower it without then having to adjust viewing angle on the N800 mount. Not to mention also making sure you don't intefere with the motion of the windshield since you can knock off the N800's mounting hardware and off goes your N800!

I had the display brightness on maximum, with the dimming timeout set for 60 minutes so it would not cut in and dim the display in order to try and maximize battery life!.

You can barely see the video player controls, the red is my tshirt reflecting on the screen.

I then cobble up a quick "sunshade", helps a tiny bit as you can see.

As you can see, it's barely usable the screen which is why I am pinning all my hopes of using the gps software's visual info on the "high contrast" mode that it comes with.

I am sure it'll be better during overcast skies and in the evening/night. These are just the initial observations I am making here.

For a great in-depth review of the N800 using the Navicore GPS in a non-motorcycling environment ( i.e. the way it was designed to be used), go to thoughtfix's blog here.

23JUN07: Check out 23JUN's article. Changing some factors resulted in the screen being usable for the most part of a ride.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Delay is sometimes a good thing!

So, remember my posting back in May about me being approved to review the Navicore GPS Kit for the Nokia N800? I had originally been scheduled to receive it at the beginning of June but delays due to customs caused it to not get back to womworld till recently.

Now the kit is on it's way to me via DHL, I should have it by next week hopefully. The womworld trials people tell me I get to have it a whole month starting from when I receive it!

Why am I so excited about this? It means I get to have it during my motorcycle ride to the BMWMOA International Rally and back. If that does not prove to be a good workout/trial of this GPS kit for my tablet, I can't imagine what else could do it in so short a time.

So yes, sometimes delay is a good thing.

Previous Posting

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Riding CO9 to Frisco via Fairplay

Temps ranging from mid-70s in the mountains to low 90s in the front range. Sunny for the most part, with gathering clouds in the late afternoon.

As a Father's Day present, my loving wife said I should do a long ride today. So I left the house around 0945 or so, with a full tank of gas and a vague idea of doing a loop ride that would involve US 285, CO9 and CO6. I was also testing out the idea which I'd gleaned from the motorcycling forums of putting on a t-shirt that was water-soaked under one's mesh jacket in order to stay cool. I gotta tell, it works! I was nice and cool in the bright sun and high 80s temps that I rode in as I made my way to the mountains.

I took the 470 slab over to Wadsworth Blvd exit onto the Chatfield Reservoir area, from there I accessed Deer Creek Canyon Road, which was swarming with bicyclists and cages. I slowly made my way down this familiar and winding road till I got to Fenders, whereupon I headed South towards US285 a few miles down the road.

I took US285 South towards Fairplay, the roads were good and not too crowded. The only police presence that comes to mind was back on Deer Creek Canyon Road where a speed trap was setup just past the Lockheed-Martin complex.

As always, the views one gets of the valley that Fairplay sits in as one crosses Kenosha Pass were breathtaking. I kept moving though, since I had pics of this pass from when I last rode it on my 2006 Honda Aero Shadow along with Sanoke.

I turned onto CO9 from Fairplay's main drag and hit the town of Alma at 1157hrs. A rustic town with not much effort to spruce itself up is the impression I got. Or perhaps that's the look they were going for? No matter, I was soon past it and seeing signs for Hoosier Pass. To the West I passed views showing a couple of fourteener mountains: Mount Bross and Mount Lincoln. Most of the snow was gone from them this late in the year but some was still in evidence.

I stopped briefly at Hoosier Pass to take the below picture and to swap to a different audio book on my internet tablet.

Hoosier Pass

After Hoosier pass and once you make your way down some hairpin turns there's the beautiful view of two more mountains: Quandary Peak and McNamee Peak. I stopped by a creek and snapped the following pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Took both pics while standing on a delapidated wooden bridge that used to span the creek

Quandary Peak to the Left and McNamee Peak to the right

The road then lead up to the Town of Breckenridge and its ski resorts. Traffic was a bit heavy so I made my way through it quickly and arrived at the Town of Frisco where I checked in with my wife. I still had about half a tank of gas so I decided to press on after the call instead of stopping for lunch.

I got on the I-70 Slab heading East and with the exception of a couple of spots where traffic slowed way down, had no incidents to report. I got off on US6 heading towards Golden thinking to enjoy the twisty roads and tunnels. However, this was not to be. Lots of cars and campers choked the road and I was lucky to make 40mph at times. I realized after a couple of passing moves that no matter how many I passed, there were more slow vehicles ahead and so I resigned myself to the slow pace until I reach Golden.

I continued on US6 South now and got on the C-470 Slab once past Golden. There was some kind of accident at the onramp which slowed things down to a crawl but we all made it past it pretty well. I picked up speed and the heat which had been building once I started my descent from the mountains really picked up and made itself felt.

So, I decided to try the wet tshirt trick again. I exited at the Morrison exit, got a full tank of gas and then went inside the convenience store's restroom where I got my tshirt all wet again. Ah, the relief from the heat was quite welcome!

I saddled back up under the watchful eyes of a little boy in the car next to where I had parked my motorcycle. I continued on C-470, and in medium to heavy traffic wound my way around the southern end of the Denver Metro area and got home safe and sound at 1500hrs.

Storm clouds were in evidence to the South and I even got sprinkled on a couple of times, no matter though, the heat was present and I was glad I'd stopped to soak the tshirt I was wearing.
Covered 236 miles roughly, in about 5hrs of saddle time. Not too bad considering a lot of the roads I covered were in the mountains and given the amount of traffic I encountered.

Maria did beautifully as usual, I think I was averaging like 50mph on this ride. I must now go and clean off all the bugs that splattered themselves on Maria. Quite a few this time, the warmer weather you know! This ride confirmed for me the hot-weather-riding trick of the soaked tshirt, I am not very worried about the heat now in July when I go to the BMWMOA Rally. Now if only I can figure out a way to soak the tshirt while on the move.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Reconning a Route

Temps in the mid to upper 80s. Sunny with gradual overcast and afternoon thunderstorms in the distance.

I went for a ride to recon or reconnoiter a route consisting of county roads I'd proposed to the couple of guys who are planning on going with me to the BMWMOA International Rally next month. I wanted to make sure the roads were paved all the way to the I-76 Slab. Some of the county roads I've wandered on East of Denver suddenly become packed dirt/gravel roads and I did not want that for the upcoming trip!

It was hot on the outbound leg of the trip. I was drinking from my camelback drink container steadily and was glad I had put ice cubes in with the cold water. It really helps cool down your core. The mesh jacket did ok, and I did not get too hot for the most part. It was a small prelude I think to the hot weather we'll have to endure on the ride to Wisconsin during the month of July!

There was also a stiff northerly wind blowing during the entire ride. I found that when you're riding with the wind, you get hotter. When you're going against the wind, it feels cooler but it's noisier due to wind noise. When it hits you broadside, well, you go into the "dancing with the wind" mode and enjoy.

Got to Roggen and the I-76 onramp on schedule and the distance matched what Microsoft Streets and Trips had reported. Roads were pretty much empty on a Saturday afternoon and I even had an occasion to use the new horns to get the attention of this cager who was starting to cut the corner to close to me as he made a left at a stop sign where I was stopped. Nice and loud.

The inbound leg of the ride saw the skies becoming overcast and the temp dropped almost ten degrees according to the thermometer on my motorcycle. I'd been watching some thunderstorms approaching from the West as I rode, I did not get rained on before I got home but managed to get a couple of pics of the clouds from the town of Watkins, CO.

Got home with no incident and no rain, first time I'd ever drained the camelback on a ride though, like I said, it was hot!

Got Louder Horns for Maria

It's going to be a hot one today, the forecast is for a high of 90 and mostly sunny. As I write this, it's already feeling hotter than that.

Spent the morning removing Maria's tupperware and replacing her stock horns. Removed those and their connectors and mounted a couple of FIAMM Horns that I got from the local auto parts store. Took me a while to wire it up since I tried to reuse the connectors that were used for the stock horns, ended up cutting them off and splicing the wires together instead. Not clean or neat but it works.

The new horns are advertised as putting out 132db of sound. Got a high tone and a low tone horn and the noise they make when they go off together seems a lot louder than the stock horns.

These new horns put out 7dB less than the popular choice amongst motorcyclists who've upgraded from stock horns: Stebel Nautilus (139dB), and I got both at less than the price of one Stebel horn.

I've the beginnings of a headache now as I write this after testing the horn several times. They seemed loud even when I donned my helmet and blasted the horns while my wife listened inside the minivan with windows closed and radio blaring. She said she could still hear the new horns but recommended I do a series of beeps to get better attention. We'll see the next time.

I usually do the short beeps in order to get attention of wandering cagers, but in case of an emergency, I'll most likely just hold down the horn button like I did the other day during my close call with an idiot cager.

Their form factor is same as the stock horns, they just say FIAMM on them instead of Bosch but a quick look at Maria will not betray the difference. Based on what I understand of the decibel scale (see chart below), these horns are about 43 db or 8 times louder than the stock horns which up until recently I thought were pretty loud already (89db). Even accounting for voltage loss from using the stock wires, I've now got horns that are at least four time (probably more) louder than before.

Must go get some aspirin for the headache. : )

Here's hoping I never have to use them in an emergency but....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My closest call yet with an idiot cager, wondering if louder horns would have helped any.

Temps in the low 80s and sunny, enjoying the ride home, feeling a nice breeze course through my mesh riding jacket. Work had been pretty good today and my RT was running great as usual.

About the stock horns that came with my 2004 BMW R1150RT, I'd always thought they were pretty loud and they'd come in handy on previous occasions to wake up some moron on the road. Heck, they seemed so loud before when I inadvertently pushed the horn button instead of the left turn signal and scared myself!

This is what I thought up until the ride home today, when I had to use them again. I was riding in the left lane and had a feeling this cager in her new suv (dealer tags) was going to do something stupid. You know how sometimes you just know when someone is going to move into your lane? This was one of those times. Man am I glad of the stuff I learned at the MSF BRC, from safe riding books and motorcycle forums.

Sure enough, the idiot starts moving into my lane after pulling ahead a little bit, this after I had been right alongside her, both of us doing the speed limit. I am laying into the horn as I see her left front wheel move into my lane. Nothing! Apparently the 89db put out by the stock horns had no effect on her. This idiot just keeps moving into my lane forcing me to rapidly slow down and she ends up in front of me by perhaps 5 feet!

I kept slowing while continuing to blow the horns and she finally notices me right behind her. I now believe she wouldn't have noticed me even then had her passenger not noticed that she'd almost hit me and told her. She does that pathetic hand wave that people do when they realize they screwed up but I was so pissed off at this point that I kept blowing the horns. She finally gets back in the right lane and I pull past her sheepish looking face with one final long blast of the horns. She tries the hand wave again and it took all my will not to flip her off! Moron!

Sometimes having a dark visor does not help you convey a 'angry stare' when that's all you got left to convey your displeasure at a stupid cagers actions. I must remember to flip my visor up the next time! Or, just flip them the bird I guess. ;)

So, long story short, now thinking about plunking down about $40 to replace one of the horns with a 139db Stebel horn. Or perhaps, go the whole hog and get two of them. Two of them together are quite loud as you can see for yourself here.

Only things stopping me from buying the stebels right now is the amount of electrical work that I am hesitant to take on to mount the stebels to the motorcycle and a suspicion that I could have horns equivalent to a Tractor-Trailer Truck and still it would not be enough at times to get an idiot's attention! Today's cager probably had her damn music on high volume.

There's also other loud horns available at local auto parts stores, perhaps I'll see if there's one close to the db output of a stebel and check out how it sounds.

Then, there's the more "extreme" options for dealing with idiot cagers:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Official: Going to the BMWMOA International Rally!

No changing my mind easily now, I've paid my fee, airline tickets bought for the family, new tires on the motorcycle, ride announcements made in motorcycle forums, I am riding to the BMWMOA 2007 International Rally in West Bend, Wisconsin!

Although the route to be ridden to the Rally has not been finalized, it's going to be around 1100 to 1200 miles or so, one way. There's a couple of fellow riders who say they want to ride along so consensus must be reached before final route planning occurs.

Proposed Route, v1.

Overnight stops for the above route are Ft Leavenworth, KS for the first night (Steaks and Prisons!), Batavia, IL the second night and finally Milwaukee, WI on third night. The riders that end up coming with me will probably split off as we near Batavia and head their own way North towards West Bend. My loving wife and kids are flying to Milwaukee to meet up with me.

I am really looking forward to the trip, it'll be my first long distance trip (over 500miles) involving overnight stays. I think I now have enough luggage carrying space with the recent addition of a topcase for Maria. A few more prep work to be done but still plenty of time.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Maria Mosaic

As I am wont to do, I check in at my loving wife's blog on a frequent basis to see if I am in trouble or not or to catch up on the latest neighborhood doings.

What do you know, she surprises me by posting a mosaic of pictures of my motorcycle that she got from this blog!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

June on Mount Evans, Colorado

Temps in the high 70s to mid 80s, sunny and mild.

Gorgeous riding day today. I got a late start and did not leave the house till around 0945hrs with a destination of Mount Evans, the highest paved road in the USA. I'd been up this great road when I owned the Honda 750 Shadow Aero, my first motorcycle. Now it was Maria's turn to make the trip.

Due to the late start and few choices really, I slabbed it via E-470, to Northbound I-25 cutting through Denver and getting on Westbound I-70 and into the mountains. I was soon in Idaho Springs after some brisk riding up the mountains. Traffic was moderate and I had no problems with the cagers.

I got off the exit that has the Mount Evans CO 103 sign at Idaho Springs and tanked up at the Shell gas station at the end of the exit. It's roughly 72 miles from the house to this gas station, just FYI.

I headed on up CO 103, which winds its way up to Echo Lake and the Hotel there. The entrance into the "fee area" of Mt Evans is just past the hotel. Here I found that motorcycles only have to pay $3 to ride up, park and take pictures. If you state that you're just going to ride up and down with no parking, no fee is required!

The road is fine all the way to the parking lot at the top. There's some serious bumps on the road around mile marker 9, near the Summit Lake parking lot. Beware and slow way down. They really mean it when the sign says 10mph. The worst part of the ride was being stuck cagers who were creeping along taking in the sights and not caring if they blocked the road doing it, instead of pulling off to the side where possible. Inconsiderate bastards.

So I get to the top, parking lot is full, I circle it and end up heading back down.
Here's a few shots of the area at the top of the mountain.

Note the observatory next to the parking lot/visitor center

Note the tourists climbing to the very top of Mt. Evans from the parking lot

The view from the first hairpin turn on the way down from the top

I took a lot of pics on the way down, stopping usually at the apex of the hairpin turns where there was space to safely stop. Lots of snow still in evidence as you can see in the pictures, some of the snow banks were pretty high too but I did not find a good safe spot to park Maria and take her picture as I did at Pikes Peak. Oh well.

Near the summit of Mt Evans, is Summit Lake. Go figure! There's a small parking lot and park here but like before I stopped on the side of the road to take pictures.

Summit Lake

One last picture of the top of the mountain

I got down to the bottom of the mountain, into the Echo Lake Resort area with no incident, watching as increasing numbers of cars/bikes/motorcycles continued to head upwards. It was apparently going to get pretty crowded up there in the small parking lot at the top! Can't says I blame them, the day was perfect for a mountain ride.

I headed down towards Bergen Park on CO103, down the winding road, past Squaw Pass where I fell with Maria in the snow when I foolishly thought I could negotiate the road in spite of the thin snow cover. Dry roads, much better! Thoroughly enjoyed the twistys all the way to Bergen Park and from there got on I-70 after doffing my jacket liner at the park and ride.

The rest of the trip is pretty boring all the way home. Took I-70 across the northern portion of the Denver Metro area, to E-470 which I took southbound and exited at Smoky Hill Road exit and from there home by 1500hrs. Great ride today, another fourteener under Maria's belt, and she did beautifully as usual.

Only fly in the ointment is I've yet to find the earphones comfortable for hours on end. The only ones that work in spite of engine noise use the etymotic plugs but they've a plastic housing for the electronics which my helmet apparently presses into my ears. I am hoping the amplirider amplifier I bought from will boost the sound enough for the more comfortable pair of earphones I have to be usable at highway speeds. A review of that amp will be forthcoming.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Ultimate in Mobile Homes

Temps in the mid-70s with cloudy gray skies, around 1900hrs in the evening.

I went for a short ride after dinner after having spent the day doing chores, playing with the kids and just loafing around the house. I stopped by the Radio Shack for some adapters and cables for my GPS which is also an FRS/GMRS radio. I am playing with the idea of having it available to talk to fellow riders on long rides. Like the one to West Bend, WI next month to attend the BMWMOA International Rally. I've got two guys emailing me already, it'll be good to have some company on the 1100+ miles to the Rally.

While tooling around, I see this house on a moving trailer. Caught my eye as it did every other motorist who cruised by. I returned to it after my errand and as you can see, truly the latest work in mobile homes, kind of.

So either today's housing is really light and airy or that is one strong tractor-trailer combination!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Full Mesh Riding Jacket for the Colorado Summer

So I get this fully meshed riding jacket from an Ebay reseller yesterday after riding home early in 83 degree and sunny weather. It was very windy but I did not get any relief from the wind, must have been hot wind. This was while wearing my Firstgear Kilimanjaro Air Riding jacket which although partially meshed, has enough textile panels to block a lot of air on the really warm days like yesterday. Summers here in Colorado can top out above 100 degrees so a more ventilated jacket was in order.

So here's the jacket, fits me pretty well and is not too flashy. No reflective material though which I will remedy later on with some sew on stuff I think. However, it's nice and ventilated, at least in the couple of rides I've done since then.

This is the pic from the Ebay ad.
While I personally don't look as good in the jacket as the model does in the photo above, and my loving wife describes me as the Michelin Man with it on, I still like it a lot.

Of course, both rides so far have been in cool weather. Heck, I had to put the liner from my Firstgear jacket on for last night's ride which dipped into the high 50s by the time I got home. Today's high is only supposed to be low 60s so no real test of the jacket's ventilation capabilities so far. However, the ride I took during lunch was quite enjoyable and one can feel the wind hitting everywhere that there's no armor.

It's a no-name brand, but seems to be made well, and of the abrasion-resistant stuff. Now to find a similar good deal on full meshed pants! The Joe Rocket Alter Ego Overpants I have now are not very ventilated.

Update: 10JUN07. Riding home on the I-70 slab, temps in mid-80s and hot. The mesh jacket did well. I was riding with a t-shirt on under the jacket and while not cool, was not uncomfortably hot either. The air was just hot and dry. I think I need to get me some long sleeved tshirts for hot weather riding, this way sweat gets trapped and the air coming in through the mesh cools me off.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Storage Farkle for Maria

I'd been thinking about a top case for Maria, my R1150RT Motorcycle for quite a while now and finally took the plunge last week and got her one from J.C. Whitney.

Yes, I am sure some of you true-blue BMW riders out there are shaking your heads in disapproval at the perceived sacrilege of putting not only a non-BWM top case on a Beemer but a "frugally priced" one at that! Not even a Givi case for pete's sake, some of you might say. The horror!

Well, I gotta tell ya. There's some truth in the answer, at least as it pertains to me, to the following question: What's the cheapest thing on a BMW Motorcycle? The owner! : )

The OEM one is a little larger I believe but not by much. I can fit both my helmet and riding jacket in the top case I bought with no issues. Here's a pic of the OEM case that retails for $400. I paid $90 for the J.C. Whitney case and while the finish and fit is probably not as fine as the BMW Case, it'll do the job nicely for the money it cost.

OEM Case

In truth, the case is more of a knock-off of the GIVI style case. Here's some pics of Maria with her new top case, had to be a little creative with the mounting hardware that came with the "universal" mounting plate that J.C. Whitney threw in for free with the purchase. Note: The mounting plate for the BMW case, to make it easily removable, costs $106! Heck, the optional backrest is another $106. The one I bought has a backrest built-in!

The case's finish is a little dull when you get it out of the box, so I got some Vinylex on the topcase when I got her home from the test ride and it shined right up to same levels as the system case. I replaced the cheesy maltese cross/chopper stick-on emblem with a BMW Roundel.

Going to see if I'll keep the top case on the motorcycle on permanent basis or just put it on for long trips. I am curious to see its effect on gas mileage. I did not feel any difference in terms of aerodynamics/handling when I took her out for a test ride both on the local slab and some main streets. I can remove the case simply by unlocking it, pushing the release button and lifting the case off the mounting plate. Overall, am pleased with the purchase. Now let's see if it lasts!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pikes Peak or Bust!

Temps in the high 40s to high 70s. Sunny on the Front Range, cloudy and cold up on the top of Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak opened for the season three Fridays ago so it was time for me to attempt the ride all the way to the summit house at the top. I had some misgivings since a lot of the 19 miles up the mountain from US24 was unpaved, I had vague recollections of gravel hitting the underside of the minivan I was in the last time I was up the mountain, almost ten years ago.

I left home and tanked up at the local gas station I use. At 0800 I was again on the road, heading towards the I-25 slab towards Colorado Springs. I was listening to an audio book on my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet as a shakedown trial for the upcoming long ride to Wisconsin. The audio book was very clear and I only had to stop once to adjust the volume. Must get an inline volume controller to avoid having to stop to do volume adjustments.

I grooved into the book a bit too much as I motored down the slab, found it to detract a bit from the ride in terms of awareness so I think I'll only use it on long stretches of slab. Somehow I managed to miss the sign to go West on US24 once I got to Colorado Springs so I had to turn around and lost some time doing that. The ride was uneventful otherwise, I rode up US24 until I saw the signs for the Pikes Peak Highway. I paid my $10 and up I went after checking in with my loving wife.

The road up is paved for part of the way, it becomes a dirt road just past the Halfway Point Picnic Area. The road is packed dirt with some small gravel covering most of it, really not too bad, very similar to the dirt county roads in Colorado. Very much manageable for me and my skills as long as I stayed under 20mph. Since that was the speed limit, no problem. The one time a truck started getting near me, I pulled over and he passed me with lots of space to spare. The road is very wide you see, you could probably fit three vehicles across on most of it, except for the hairpin turns of course!

Once I got to the Glen Cove Inn, the road became paved again! Joy! The joy was not long lived though, it must have been only 3 to 4 miles of pavement and then it was dirt once more all the way to the top. As I neared the top, there was melting snow along the sides of the road. Mud was becoming more and more widespread as well. The parking lot at the Summit House is basically thin mud over packed dirt and lots of holes. Oh, and the road got bumpier the closer one gets to the top, nothing bad or unmanageable but you have to pay attention.

Here's Maria with the parking lot sign in the background

I wandered about a bit around the summit house, taking pictures of the surrounding countryside as seen from 14, 110ft in height. The clouds were rolling in as you can see in the following shots and it was quite cold though the thermometer only registered in the mid 40s!

Here's Katherine Lee Bates' Poem, inspired by her trip to Pikes Peak, America's Mountain

I left after a short while and took the following shots while headed down the mountain. Note, it seemed a lot easier to me to ride the dirt/gravelled road down as opposed to up. Not sure why but it sure felt more comfortable going downwards. Engine-braking is a wonderful thing.

Devils's Playground

Still a bit of snow near the top

Maria parked at the overlook next to "Bottomless Pit"

Cool Rock Formations overlooking the Front Range

Once you exit the Pikes Peak Highway, you see the signs for the North Pole and Santa's Workshop, it's a local amusement park/tourist trap with the Christmas motif. Thought I'd include a shot of it while ending this post.

I had discovered, on the way down the mountain that my lowbeam headlamp was burned out. I called my loving wife and she gave me directions to the Beemer dealer in Colorado Springs. Took me a bit but I found it just off US24 on 21st street. I saw a couple of Beemers coming from that direction and sure enough, found the dealer. Got my headlamp after some delay due to the parts guy not being too sure where everything was.

The delay caused me to get back on I-25 Northbound just in time for what I thought would be a short rainstorm which I could easily outrun.

On the way to I-25N, I saw a pack of about 20 mopeds riding together, an amusing sight. They seemed to be having a high old time but like me they kept looking up at the dark and threatening sky.

Sure enough, got rained on as I got on the slab and headed North through the city. I thought to myself that the rain seemed a bit hard and loud as it struck my helmet. Soon the raindrops started stinging as they hit me. Turns out I got hailed on by very small pea-sized hail. Hah! Spring in Colorado! Luckily, I did manage to outrun the storm and the rest of the ride was uneventful except for some congestion near Larkspur.

The sun came out again as I neared home, helping to dry the little bit of me that had gotten wet during the rain/hail storm. 219 miles is what I covered from 0800hrs to 1530hrs when I finally got home. Tanked up with 4.482 gallons at $3.58, which works out to 48.8mpg, pretty good huh?