Friday, November 30, 2007

A Lesson in not getting getting cocky about commuting in cold weather

The temperatures during my morning commute were between 18-20 degrees, gusty winds and sunny. It was cold.

I even stopped shortly after I left the house and put on the ATV grip covers over my heated grips which were then turned on high for the rest of the ride to work.

I was sitting at a light on Colfax Avenue, thinking to myself how nice and warm my hands were feeling in spite of the bitter cold when this other motorcycle rider pulls up to the light two lanes from me. He's the only other rider I saw on the way to work this morning.

He was riding a cruiser-type motorcycle with no windshield and NO fairings as opposed to my full-fairing motorcycle with its adjustable windshield in the full up position. He was dressed warmly and wearing a helmet. I could see his gloved hands on his grips so no grip covers like I was using. No way to tell of course from a distance if his grips were heated or not.

It was a gentle reminder to me that riders with much LESS wind protection than me on their motorcycles are out there braving the cold and riding! I'm guessing perhaps he could have electrics on but still, no fairings or windshield!

Windchill for the ride in: -4 Farenheit. My riding gear did fine as usual, I would have been wearing my electric vest on a longer ride but not for commuting.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My LongDistanceRider.Net Stuff has arrived!

Wow, less than two months after sending in my documentation for my "Easy Rider" 500 miles in 12 hours Ride I received my certificate and assorted mementos from!

As you can see below, your very reasonable registration fee gets you a nice certificate detailing your accomplishment, a quality looking patch, a license plate frame showing your achievement ride, a sticker for the motorcycle's side case and a drink coozie with the LDR logo. Cool Stuff. I shall be wearing the patch proudly soon enough.

This organization is just getting started, oh readers of mine, notice I am but #8 for the Easy Rider certification! Don't waste any time in qualifying for one of your own or one of the longer rides! Become a sort of plankowner!

Link to LDR site: LINK

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wishful Thinking

Temps in the very low 30s, icy and light snow. 50% chance of snow for tonight.

The picture below depicts the wishful thinking that was running through my head as I cleared the driveway of about an inch and half of fallen snow this morning. I had gone ahead and also cleared a path out of the culdesac but it's not looking good.

It's quite overcast as I type this and though the radar looks clear, I don't think the sun will come out in force today and so there shall be no melting. Bummer. I guess I'll be taking the cage to work today.

1000hrs Update

The sun came out as hoped for and it did its usual great job of melting away the snow off the roads if not the grassy areas. Check it out:

It's looking like a riding day after all! I fly out on business tonight, the debate now is whether I leave Maria out in a cold parking lot overnight or "warm" in the garage, leaving the cage out in the cold parking lot at work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Passbagger ride to Pawnee Pass

Temps from 24 to 54 degrees as the day warmed. Windy and sunny.

I had to be at work today at 0600, was done with work by 0800 and headed NE from Denver on the I-76 slab towards Sterling, CO from the old Stapleton Airport area.

My destination was the most NE-located passes I'd gathered from the list of Colorado Passes that were doable by road motorcycle. These were Pawnee Pass and Pawnee Pass North. I inputted their GPS coordinates onto my Nokia N800 tabled and rode out into the 24 degree morning. It was cold but bearable even though I was not wearing my heated vest or had the grip covers mounted until after I stopped for a late breakfast at a McDonald's in the town of Fort Morgan shortly after 0900.

Note: Wind Chill calculator: 24 degrees air temperature with 85mph winds = -2 °F, cool! : )

I finally got to Sterling shortly after 1100hrs and Pawnee pass was located to the West of town on CO14. The pass itself traverses a low rocky set of ridges. Not very impressive as passes go but it's named and part of the list so I can now add it to my list of passes ridden.

Looking back towards East from Pawnee Pass

Looking West from Pawnee Pass

The ridgeline that Pawnee Pass traverses

I then tried to get to Pawnee Pass North which was really close by. I was however, unable to ride the pass due to it being blocked by a gate, must like many of the passes I found blocked during the last passbagger ride I tried. I did take some pictures of the area just in case I can eventually add it to the "list"

At the blocking gate, looking South towards the ridge

Looking North, from closes point to Pawnee Pass North

I then headed back East on CO14 towards Sterling and spotted this rock memorial to a couple of Colorado Highway Workers who'd apparently died while helping build Pawnee Creek Bridge which is located just East of the marker. I figure the fact the memorial mentions Pawnee Creek, it substantiates me having been on Pawnee Pass since there was no actual sign at the actual location of the pass.

The ride home was unremarkable, took the I-76 slab back to the Roggen exit and then county roads back towards Bennett and Watkins. From Watkins I soon got back on Quincy Road and was home by 1400hrs. About 300 miles covered today, some six hours in the saddle perhaps. Pretty good ride, windy and cold but kept warm enough with my electric gear and clothing layers. One, perhaps two passes bagged on this ride. It was remarkable to me how the temperature "soared" from 24 to 54 during my ride.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Test ride after Clutch Bleed

I left the house shortly after 1230, the sun had come out in force as usual after a snow storm and had melted off almost all the snow from the roads and grassy areas. Temps were in the high 30s to low 40s and felt almost balmy.

I took Maria out for a ride to make sure her clutch worked just fine after yesterday's bleeding of the clutch circuit. I am happy to report no issues, she shifted just fine or rather, the same as before the maintenance.

Since I was just wandering around, I headed over to Quincy Road the the Plains Conservation Center located there at the intersection with Picadilly Rd. I'd see the old pioneer houses and such from afar on my daily commutes and this time I actually went into the center to get a closer look.

Although you see some remaining snow in the picture, the roads were bone dry by 1330 hrs or so. I did some errands, bought some miscellaneous stuff, and headed home where I finally got around to rigging an overhead light for times when I am working on Maria with the garage door closed due to weather. Much better now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bleeding the Hydraulic Clutch Circuit on Maria

The speedbleeder for my R1150RT's Clutch Circuit arrived last week and I finally had some time today to go put it in and bleed the clutch circuit on Maria.

I was following the great instructions/guide put out by Jamie of LINK

The procedure is pretty straightforward actually. I only ran into one issue that had me puzzled and frustrated for a bit. The speedbleeder apparently is a little bit too long and the pointy end trying to push back the check valve ball on the motorcycle's clutch filler adapter is difficult if not impossible to do without damaging something!

I had been referencing the printout I had made of Jamies' article and had not printed out the commentary that usually follows his work. I went back online and re-read the whole thing and found that others had not only run into the same issue with the speedbleeder valve but there were two options to get around this. I had also emailed Jamie and he'd actually responded at same time I was discovering these solutions proposing same thing! Wow, now there's a guy who stands by his postings! Thanks Jamie!

So there two options are:

A. File down the pointy end of the speedbleeder so that the threads get a chance to "bite" into the filler adapter's threads. Tried it, did not work, risked stripping things, so I did B.

B. Remove the filler adapter, which is apparently there to make it easy at the BMW factory to put fluid into the clutch circuit! Put the speedbleeder in its place, which goes in nicely and voila, the sucker is in place and you're ready to bleed the circuit easy as you please! Speedbleeders, as I've written before, are the bomb! : )

I looked at the stuff that came out as I started bleeding the circuit and it looked same color as the new fluid so I only ran half a bottle of fluid into the system. I only had one bottle of brake fluid you see, and did not want to risk running out. I also wanted to have some "reserve" just in case even though the fluid starts absorbing oxygen at this point and can't be kept for long.

The rest of the process was easy, got everything filled up, tightened back down and cleaned up with no issues. Can't do a test ride today though, there's snow falling outside and the roads look icy. I'll wait till tomorrow when the sun hopefully burns the snow/ice that's falling today off.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Review: Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

On the longer rides, I sometimes would wear some wired sound-isolating earbuds with speakers built-in for music or ebooks from my Nokia N800 Internet Tablet which has an MP3 player.

The sound isolation kept the wind/engine noise down to an acceptable and safe for my hearing level and I did not have to turn up the volume on the music too loud to be able to hear it and still be able to hear things around me as I rode.

However, it was a wired system and I had to rig a quick-disconnect or risk yanking the dang earbuds from my ears while I still had my helmet on while dismounting the motorcycle! Not good.

One day, I saw these on and for $20 it seemed like a good trial. You can apparently buy them from walmart, though not online, see link below pic.

It's got a bluetooth transmitter box (tiny) which I hooked up to the output jack on my Amplirider Amp inside my BigMak tankbag. Both the transmitter and receiver use rechargeable batteries and I've gone over 8 hrs on one charge with no issues or fading of power.

The receiver earbuds work fine in city driving where the wind noise is not great. On highway speeds though, I found I had to crank the volume way up and probably contribute to hearing loss.

So I cut off the stock ends and spliced in my sound-isolating earbuds which I'd used before this bluetooth gadget came into my life. A couple of trial and error attempts later, since I suck at splicing apparently, I got it working reliably with the N800's MP3.

Wonderful sound quality when couple with sound-isolation earbuds. Not having to disconnect from the amp when dismounting is great stuff. I can even go about 20ft from the motorcycle, still be hearing music while taking pictures when stopped! : )

Highly recommended, if you're lucky you can get them for a reasonable price and they work well for me.

A short, cold ride on Thanksgiving Day

Temps the 18-24 degree range, sunny, not much wind. In other words, a perfect "rounder" kind of day to get in a short ride before sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner with friends and giving thanks for the riches and blessings in our lives.

I left the house around 0830 and cruised southwards along the backroads to Parker. As I was heading West of Lincoln Avenue and perhaps heading south on Parker Road or CO83, it came to me I did not know what layed west if I stayed on Lincoln. So I kept heading west, over the I-25 Slab and the road became Highland Ranch Parkway! This is a road I'd been on before, but heading East from the foothills.

It was nice riding, very little traffic and the electric vest, ATV grip covers and heated grips were keeping me nice and warm on the motorcycle. The paved roads were bone dry and what remained of the little snow we had yesterday was mainly on the grass along the sides of the road and on the roofs of houses and buildings.

I spotted this church steeple from about a mile off and thought it'd make a good background scene for a picture of Maria on this ride. It's apparently going to be a religious high school, and you can see below it the Cherry Creek Community Church. The unusual cross built into the church's wall drew my eye.

I kept heading West on Highland Ranch Parkway till it dead-ended on US85 which I took North towards the E-470 slab. I got on the slab for a few minutes to get to the Wadsworth Blvd exit which lead me to my favority local twisty road: Deer Creek Canyon.

Here's some pictures of the rock formations I found interesting in the South Valley Park area which one rides by on the way to the twisty parts of Deer Creek Canyon.

After meandering through the South Valley Park area for the above pictures, I started back on Deer Creek Canyon Road to see how far I could get before ice would force me to turn back.

Turns out the road was pretty good and clear for a while but about two miles west of where Grizzly Road intersects with Deer Creek Canyon road the ice patches were more prevalent and the clear paths between them narrower and narrower so I stopped and turned around. No big surprise, the canyon walls here prevent much sun from hitting the road and melting off the snow/ice.

I made my way back to the dry portions of Deer Creek Canyon without incident. I turned South on CO121 towards Waterton Canyon Road and from there to US85 again which I took South this time towards Sedalia and Castle Rock.

By this time, it was around 1100hrs and my toes were feeling a bit cold. I wiggled them vigorously and things were fine after that, just had to remember to keep wiggling the toes! The thought of electric socks came to mind but I don't know if I'll get some. If I could figure out a way to keep the toes out of the airstream, I think they'd be fine. Oh well.

I took CO85 South to Castlerock and from there took the Crowfoot Parkway back towards Parker. I was back home before noon after tanking up at the usual gas station.

I'd worn my summer gloves within the ATV grip covers and my hands never got cold, in fact I had to turn down the heated grips a few times as the palms of my hand got almost too hot! I think next cold ride, medium gloves since the outer portion of my summer gloves are vented and were letting the cold in just a tiny bit.

Not a single other motorcycle spotted during the entire ride, I guess everyone's getting ready for Thanksgiving Dinner.

So how's this for cold? I could, at times, see my own breath inside my own helmet while riding along. Couple of times I had to crack open the visor because my eyeglass lenses were fogging up! The Fogcity Fogshield on my visor did it's job nicely, it scratches easy, but it's nice to have on cold rides.

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers, I hope you have many things to be thankful for, I surely do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A better map for future passbagger rides

Hindsight being 20-20, I should have researched and produced the second map below BEFORE I set off on the overly ambitious passbagger ride yesterday. Oh well.

Thanks to the great website run by Randy Bishop of the Colorado COG: LINK.

Randy Bishop's site not only shows the passes he's accumulated towards his previous earning of the Passbagger 50 achievement from the ColoradoBeemers Motorcycle club but includes pictures and written assessment of each pass that includes very helpful data such as what kind of motorcycle he says should be able to handle getting to each respective pass! This would have been most helpful with some of the passes I encountered yesterday! My fault for not doing my homework.

It is this site where I got the spreadsheet that I originally imported into Microsoft Streets and Trips and which got me going on my own Passbagger 50 effort. Here's what the spreadsheet looks like after being imported into Microsoft's mapping software:

Over 500 "Named" passes!

That's a lot of passes isn't it? I did not realize that some of the passes shown were really difficult passes to get to and traverse. Some of them I found are really only passable on foot! So I made my previous passbagger attempt with little research besides checking out likely candidates on the map that seemed to be near roads....what a mistake that was.

Today I did more research, eliminated the stuff that Randy Bishop lists as reachable only via dual-sport or dirt motorcycle, took out most but not all of the passes that were not on a state level road or better, and made sure to include the passes he'd been to that were deemed doable by road motorcycle.

Target List

The pushpins in green are passes which I've ridden already and have the required photographic proof for submission/validation. The yellow pushpins are passes that I plan to ride AND take a picture of Maria at for eventual submission/validation for the Passbagger 50 achievement. Some of the yellow pushpins I've actually ridden over but did not take a picture dang it. Oh well, more riding for me I guess.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Passbagger Attempt 1: Only bagged 3 out of 13!!!

A tad overambitious perhaps but I had set out this morning to try and "bag" 13 passes along the following route:

Yuri Pass in NW Boulder was the first pass on the list I'd planned yesterday. Unfortunately, though the GPS got me close I could not ride the pass as there was a locked gate barring the way up the hill towards where I assume the pass was. The below picture depicts a building sitting on what I imagine is an overlook of Yuri Pass.

So, not a great beginning to this particular quest. No problem I thought to myself, it'll be better at the other 12 passes surely! This was not to be.

Next stop was Sunshine Saddle which lies near Boulder as well on Boulder County 83, off of Sunshine Canyon Road which is Boulder County 52. The way there was mostly packed dirt and slow going. I had to drop down into the city to refuel before I made my way back to Sunshine Saddle. County 83 is a narrow dirt road, filled with loose gravel and no fun at all but I made it to where the GPS declared the saddle to be with no issues. Little did I know then that this dirt road would be cake compared to the other trails I'd be on today!

Sunshine Saddle

Next stop was Culbertson Pass which was not that far away. You head West on Sunshine Canyon Road which becomes Gold Hill Road after the little town of Gold Hill. These roads were packed dirt and gravelly but I made good progress on them.

Culbertson Pass, at intersection of Gold Hill Rd and Switzerland Trail

The GPS at this point failed to find a route to the next pass, Rollins Pass. I dug out the map book I carry with me on such trips and decided to continue on Gold Hill Road until it hit CO72 which would take me south to Nederland and I thought to take it down to I-70, Winter Park and Rollins Pass.

So I get to Nederland and saw a brown wooden sign for Rollins Pass! Naturally I took it, the road was County Rd 16 and naturally it was yet another packed dirt road with lots of loose rocks. Still, good progress was made until I got to where the road to Rollins Pass became this rock strewn steep climb. I stopped short of this and managed to get turned around since I was not sure even a GS could handle that terrain. So, scratch that pass! Made my way back the way I came, back to Nederland and from there down to I-70.

On way to Rollins Pass, shortly after this point, I turned around

No pictures, was having enough trouble keeping the motorcycle upright where I stopped to turn around. Upon further examination at home later, it was still miles to go to get to the actual pass so it would have been bad to continue.

After Nederland on CO119, I spotted a sign for Jones Pass on the way to the slab so I thought I'd check it out. Alas, it was not to be. Yes, yet another dirt road, this one a bit rougher than previous roads but still I made good progress until after a particular rocky patch I saw the trail was snow-covered. No go, turned around and headed back to CO119, scratch that pass as well!

I finally got to the I-70 superslab which I took West towards US40 and Winter Park. I got to Berthoud Pass heading North and found the plaque which marks the pass:

Berthoud Pass, easiest one of the day!

My next stop was Fawn Creek Pass which was just up the road in Winter Park so that's where I headed. Following the GPS I got pretty close to the pass but then found my way barred by a barrier made of logs. Apparently, housing is going up at the pass and the way was barred to all traffic. Dammit. Scratch this pass as well!

Made my way south out of Winter Park, through Berthoud Pass, heading towards Empire and Empire Pass. This was to be the last pass attempt of the day. The way to the pass was yet another dirt road but it was pretty well maintained and I thought it'd be the same as the others in terms of difficulty. Soon though, as I neared the pass, the rocks and boulders embedded in the road became quite large and road conditions were pretty bad. After a pretty bad stretch which had me swearing off these little mountain passes, I spotted an adult Big Horn Sheep looking back at me. As I approached I saw him head, slowly, up this steep grade with really big rocks in the even narrower rocky trail. No way I could make it up that I realized so I stopped on the uphill slope.

This is where things got interesting. I was facing uphill, a 20% grade at least, loose large rocks and gravel underneath me and a heavy motorcycle to try and turn around. I tried backing up with the wheel turned all the way to the right and got the motorcycle almost parallel to the hill. At this point I tried full lock to the left with the wheel and started easing back down to try and point the motorcycle downhill.

My downhill foot slipped, not sure but must have grabbed the front brakes, and down the motorcycle went with me being thrown off! I was not hurt at all, in fact, did not even feel the impact with the ground. Damn Damn Damn. There was my poor motorcycle, on her left side, engine still running.

I used the emergency shutoff and tried to catch my breath. I tried picking her up while she was parallel to the slope but no go. I took off my helmet, the tankbag and gloves. I then had to drag my poor motorcycle by the handlebars downhill so that she ended up facing downhill. Now I was no longer fighting gravity as before and slowly and surely I was able to pick up the motorcycle and keep her upright.

I was hyperventilating by this point, but managed to put the sidestand down and move a flat rock near it so the motorcycle would not lean over too far and fall over again! A quick damage check revealed some gas had leaked onto the ground, probably from the overflow tubes, the left-side mirror was scratched up and a small hole was punched in the plastic signal blinker lens. The valve cover guard had done its job and protected the valve cover and kept the motorcycle fairing from contacting the ground.

So really, I had been pretty lucky in terms of damage to the motorcycle that I could see. Once I got my breathing under control, I started hacking up all the dust I must have hyperventilated into my lungs while righting the motorcycle in multiple attempts. That was nasty. I could not clear my throat for quite some time but finally got it under control.

By now some hikers had come up to me and the guy and I started talking. Turns out he's a BMW RT rider as well, he's got the 2002 model and he'd been wondering if I'd been stupid enough to try and get over the pass with my RT. I told him no but that I'd dropped her while I tried to turn her around. We talked for a bit and then he went back to his hike with his family.

I got all my gear back on, started up Maria and nervously made it over the really rough patch of rocky trail and safely back to the packed dirt road leading to the town of Empire. Got over that rough patch safely if a bit tenuously, and stopped once again to continue clearing my throat.

It was close to 4pm at this point and I decided that I'd pushed my luck as far as I should for the day, not to mention I did not want to be on the road after dark since I was tired and who knew what damage my motorcycle had incurred that I could not see.

I made my way to I-70 which was close by and without any further incidents made my way home via I-70 East to C470 to E470 and home. What a day, I sure could have used a F650GS motorcycle on most of the passes I attempted today. I sure am going to bypass these little dirt mountain passes in future passbagger rides!

Results of the fall: Scratched up mirror housing, and a punctured amber lens.

I covered perhaps 250 miles or so today, over 8 hours of saddletime and bagged only three passes for sure, perhaps four if the verifier cuts me some slack about Yuri Pass but I doubt it. No more dirt passes for this rider, if it's not on pavement, I'll be passing it by, pun intended.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An Eventful Veteran's Day Ride

Happy Veteran's Day!

After spending the whole day yesterday servicing my motorcycle, I rode out after 0930 towards Fort Logan National Cemetery on the SW side of Denver to pay my respects to the veterans buried there. I got there in time to take these pictures before the 1100hrs Annual (30th one) Memorial Ceremony put on by the the local VFW chapters with the help of several ROTC detachments, a color guard from Fort Carson and a fly by made up of four F-16 Fighter Aircraft.

Fort Logan National Cemetery, rows upon rows of our country's heroes

The attendance by veterans, their families, and others was pretty good. There was a good sized crowd assembled to listen to the speeches and witness the ceremonies done to honor both fallen and living veterans. The two passes made by the F16s overhead were major crowd pleasers and the speeches were not too long.

The most poignant part of the whole ceremony was towards the end when several trumpeters played Taps. One would start then a couple of notes later, a second trumpeter would start playing and so on. There were at least four trumpets and one french horn doing this, making this heart-stirring melody last much longer than usual. It was a quite lovely performance and the reaction from the crowd reflected it in their applause.

The Color Guard from Fort Carson did well in their 21 gun salute. Their movements were crisp and in unison. Saw a lot of Hog Riders in their leathers, most of them Veterans there to pay their respects. A lot of them from some outfit sporting large patches stating "Combat Veterans Riders". There were also a lot of veterans from Korea and Vietnam and even a wounded sargent from the Iraqi AO who was part of the wreath laying ceremony.

I left soon after the end of the ceremony and made my way SW towards the Chatfield Reservoir where I picked up my usual ride on Deer Creek Canyon Ride, traffic was very light and I enjoyed the twists and turns to Fenders where I took Turkey Creek Road South towards US285.

I spent a short time going South on US285 till I got to the Foxton Road exit, a very small sign marks the exit right after Conifer Pines so you have to watch for it. Foxton Road is very full of twists and turns as well and is quite enjoyable as a motorcycling road. It was perfect riding for me today, the weather was sunny and warm, and the road was empty.

I got to the small "town" of Foxton and took these pictures of the rock formation/mountain nearby.

I continued on Foxton Road till I ended up at the small community of Buffalo Creek and US126. I headed south on this road and many miles and curves later ended up at Deckers where I took a short water break.

After I left Deckers, now heading towards towards Woodland Park on US67, I was cruising along pretty good and about 5-6 miles from Deckers came upon the scene of a motorcycle accident! I spotted it from pretty far off and slowed down to stop to see what assistance I could render.

There was a car and several other motorcycle riders there ahead of me. Most were clustered around one rider who was prone on the north edge of the highway. I approached and saw he did not seem to be bleeding, but just lying there grimacing from pain. His clothes were not torn up that I could see and his riding buddies had made him as comfortable as possible on the ground.

I learned that riders had already gone back towards Decker and forward towards Woodland Park to try and find a landline or cellphone coverage (there was none at the site of the accident) to try and get an ambulance.

I helped three other guys move the injured rider's totaled sport motorcycle a bit further away from him since it was leaking gas from its tank. The motorcycle was really messed up on both sides, made me speculate it had to have spun and flipped a couple of times. The injured rider had apparently been wearing a helmet and leather jacket with jeans. No obvious injuries but he definitely was not about to get up on his own.

I was there perhaps 30 minutes total trying to be helpful but the injured rider's riding buddies and other riders had the situation well in hand. An ambulance got there perhaps ten minutes after I did and started working on the injured guy. I left shortly after a second ambulance showed up since I was really not needed at that point and continued heading towards Woodland Park.

It looked like a single vehicle accident to my untrained eye. My guess? Too fast on the curves, which were pretty tight in the section of US67 that we were in. I don't know for sure, but this is one Veteran's Day ride that rider won't be forgetting, at least he's alive and no visible road rash.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, got to Woodland Park then US24 to Colorado Springs and from there the I-25N Super Slab back to the house. Got home around 1615 or so, about 186 miles of riding in some pretty nice Colorado fall weather.

Sidenote: Here's a pic of the "town" of Bust which one sees on CO24 while heading towards Colorado Springs. More of a clever gimmick to draw in the tourists to hopefully buy something but amusing nonetheless:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My First Brake Bleed for Maria

Today was the day I'd been prepping for about a month, with some of the parts bought months ago. I had, when I first bought the motorcycle a year ago, let the Beemer dealer whom I don't trust anymore to service my motorcycle; do the annual brake bleeding of the wheel circuits and the bi-annual bleeding of the ABS control circuits in November.

So, Maria, my R1150RT was due again for the required annual bleeding of the wheel circuits for both front and rear brakes. I had also planned, since the gas tank had to be off to do the brake bleeds; to also replace the fuel filter which was supposed to have been changed out at the 36K service interval. If things went really well, I would also tackle the ABS control circuit bleeds too.

I took off the fairings and the gas tank last night, that turned out to be pretty easy actually.

She looks quite slim without the fairings and the gas tank!

Right after breakfast this morning, I started work. My guides were the DVDs put out by Jim VonBaden of and a pdf "how to" guide I'd found on which I followed pretty much the whole operation. Link to Jim's site for the DVDs. Link to advrider site and the pdf file in question. Both sources made the operations seem very doable even for non-mechanical types like me who have aspirations to becoming a wrencher!

I'd bought, months ago, speedbleeder valves for both the front and rear brake calipers. These went on first, removing the stock bleeder valves was a bit messy but no big deal otherwise. I took my time securing the speedbleeders since I did not want to strip the threads or break off the new valves. No issues, got them secured and tested them for leaks by actuating the brakes.

I am not going to describe the steps involved with bleeding the brakes since they're plainly written in the above reference. Just some notes of things I ran into or observations I made.

Speedbleeders are the bomb! Truly do they make brake bleeding a one man operation, specially for motorcycles with ABS brakes since the motorcycle manufacturer thoughtfully has provide a powered pumping mechanism to push the fluid out the valves.

I found the color of the old brake fluid was a bit darker than the new brake fluid. I'd have to describe it as a dark red beer color. The new stuff look like pilsner beer, a light yellow.

I ran a full bottle of new DOT4 brake fluid through each of the two front wheel circuits to ensure all the old brake fluid was gone. Ditto for the rear brake wheel circuit. Did I mention speedbleeders are the bomb!? Oh, and the mini-stan funnel is a must! Well worth the $60 I had paid months ago though apparently you can also make your own.

Pic of Mini-Stan funnel in place from bmwsporttouring's kmg_365, he's put together a guide to do this as well. Check it out here: Link.

Lesson Learned: The fancy turkey baster my loving wife had gotten me was destroyed pretty quickly by the brake fluid! Must get the cheaper kind or some sort of large syringe that can take the corrosive effects of brake fluid for the next time! I lucked out in that I spotted the corrosion before little pieces of the baster fell down the brake fluid reservoir on the ABS module! As it was, I was using forceps to pull a small piece out that luckily was clinging to the edge and had not fallen in! That, would have sucked.

Lesson learned the hard way: When the guide says "finger tight" and "plastic parts may be brittle", take it to heart! I foolishly used a socket wrench to tighten the front circuit reservoir and ended up breaking off the top half of the damn cover cap! 2.5 hours, $62, and 140 miles in the cage later I had obtained the assembly which included new reservoir cover caps. BMW of Denver was closed for Employee Appreciation Day, Foothills BMW and Colorado Springs BMW did not have it in stock. The motorcycling gods finally took pity on me and I found the assembly part I needed at Northern Colorado BMW:

The circle shows the cap I broke off by being stupid

So, I got the new cover cap in place and then "entertained" the notion of doing the control circuits next. Turns out you have to disconnect the hoses leading to the ABS reservoir cover caps to get the right pieces/wires out of the way to get to the bleed valves so I decided to wait one more year when they're actually due for a brake bleed. Why tempt the motorcycling gods right? I also plan on buying the speedbleeder valves for the control circuit bleeding next year and also the one for the clutch bleeder valve!

I moved on to the next major service task, replacing the fuel filter.

It takes a bit of fiddling around and moving the fuel filter/fuel pump assembly in order to get it out of the tank without damaging the fuel level indicator wire. Take your time and it will come out eventually. Make sure, as mentioned in the DVD, to mark the orientation of the flange which mounts the fuel pump onto the gas tank, it helps when putting things back together!

Major hassle for this service turned out to be the stupid hose clamps used by BMW to assembly this unit. It apparently requires a special tool to actuate these clamps and pliers were unsuccessful in trying to operate them. I ended up using fuel-injection rated fuel clamps (which I had pre-bought at the dealer thanks to Mike O's advice) to secure the new fuel filter in place. I also had to go to the auto parts store to get clamps to replace the POS bmw clamps on the two hoses one has to disconnect before removing the fuel pump assembly from the tank! What a pain, not to mention time waster.

Although I had marked the two fuel hoses inside the gas tank before disconnecting them, letting them fall back into the tank erased the markings I'd done with a sharpie pen! I ended up mixing them up and hooking them backwards when I first replaced the fuel pump assembly into the tank and secured it in place.

How do I know this? Because after I humped the tank (which had about a gallon left) over to the motorcycle, put it in place, reconnected all involved hoses, wiring connector and fired up the motorcycle. She ran fine for maybe one minute or two then died. Oh shit I said to myself, what did I do wrong when repeated attempts to restart the motorcycle failed. I even tried putting some more gas in, no go.

So, I took all the connectors back off, humped the tank over to the workspace and removed the fuel pump assembly ONCE again, swapped the hoses that are in the tank around and put everything back together again. All the while I am doing this I am praying that it was that simple a mistake and my prayers were answered! The motorcycle fired right up after I got the tank back in place and connectors hooked up. Good stuff. I let it run while I secured the tank and glove box and air scoop back in place. Wheeew.

You have to take your time with the fuel line "quick disconnects", not only are they plastic and apparently prone to breaking but while they do come apart pretty easily, they take a bit of patience to put back together. The lower of the two gave me quite the hard time. I think a bit of oil on the o-ring next time will help. I had pre-bought a quick-disconnect assembly which I did not use so it'll be a good spare to have.

Took her out for a test ride before I put the fairings back in place, both the engine and the brakes worked fine. No leaks at all from the gas tank flange which is part of the fuel pump assembly.

Had some "issues" putting the fairings back into place though. I managed to strip one mounting bracket on the right side of the motorcycle so will have to order that on Tuesday when the dealer is open. Had a couple of other screws give me some problem but got past those. Ended up putting the fairings on, taking them back off, back on and then back off a couple of extra times before everything was fastened!

The piece I stripped the screw hole on is circled above

Still, a very good learning experience for me. I saved perhaps $300 dollars by doing it myself which I can spend on a new front tire and more gas for riding! I now am confident I can do wheel circuit brake bleeds on an ABS equipped motorcycle with no problems, specially if you have speedbleeders mounted! I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to service their motorcycle or car for that matter!

I am so glad one only has to replace the dang fuel filter every 40k miles or so! What a pain, but it will be easier next time since I have the better clamps in place now.

This pretty much took all day, will hopefully go on a long ride tomorrow to celebrate.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Formalizing an informal quest of mine

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know I like to take motorcycle rides which involve going over one or more mountain passes as part of the day's ride. Well, I discovered a site today by the Concours Owners Group or COG that lists many, many rides in Colorado that have now become candidates for rides of my own! Link to COG site.

While perusing COG's Colorado Rides site, I rediscovered that my own motorcycle club, the ColoradoBeemers sponsor the "Pass Bagger 50" achievement program. In their words:

The Pass Bagger 50 is an effort by the BMW Motorcycle Club of Colorado to promote riding your motorbike to the many, many beautiful areas of Colorado connected by roads that "Pass" over the impressive mountain ranges. Riders may choose any 50 passes within Colorado so long as the pass appears on a published map. The contest is perpetual and not year-specific, so contestants may take as long as they want or need to complete all 50 passes.

The COG site has a link to a spreadsheet listing over 400 "named" passes for Colorado so there's plenty to choose from in my attempt to qualify for a Pass Bagger 50 award of my own. Heck, I've ridden about ten of the passes so far though I don't have the required pictures of some of the ones I've ridden! For instance, the La Veta Pass picture was not doable when I rode it since it was snowing and dark at the time! Not safe for me to stop. : (

Or, I remember going across some passes but there's no signs stating their sometimes it'll be a little hard to document such events.

Regardless, this program ties in nicely with my riding in this state, just have to be a little more concientious about taking pictures of Maria when encountering Pass signs.

Now to go back to my rides archive and see which passes I can already "document" from previous rides! I already paid the $15 the club charges for the stuff required for documentation and the eventual stuff you get for achieving the 50 passes.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Riding the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway

Temps ranging from a low of 16.7 to mid 50s, sunny and clear skies.

Wow, what a great day for riding in Colorado! I rose early and after a hearty breakfast from my loving wife, headed out a little after 0700 using the I-25 Slab to cut across Denver and onto the westbound slab of the I-70 Interstate Highway. My objective was the US40 exit which would take me to Granby and from there onto CO125 to Walden and the midpoint of my ride.

Walden is the western end of the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway, here's a link with more information on this byway. LINK.

All the road reports said the roads all over the state that were open were also dry and quite safe for travel so with such nice weather, I decided to add this byway to the list of ridden roads within this state.

Dawn was breaking as I left and the roads through the city had light traffic. Once I turned off of I-70 onto US40, traffic got even lighter and I arrived at Granby with no issue and temperatures in the vicinity of 22 degrees. It felt quite chilly as I tanked up Maria and I was glad to be wearing a fleece jacket along wth heated vest, jacket liner and long underwear pants and shirt! I did manage to leave home without my grip covers dang it, they would have been nice to have. But the heated grips on high and my "Deer Creek Leather" gloves kept my wants warm enough!

I continued for a short while on US40 after leaving Granby and soon came upon the turnoff to CO125 and started headed North towards the Arapaho and Routt National Forests through which CO125 cuts through. You traverse Willow Creek Pass as you cross these forests:

The road to the pass has several sharp hairpin turns, very nice motorcycling to be had getting up to the pass.

As you exit the Routt National Forest on the North side you come upon this large open valley where I stopped for these pictures.

Looking West towards the Rabbit Ears Range

Looking towards the SW, still looking at Rabbit Ears Range

It was shortly after I took the above pictures, as I motored northward on CO14 on that nice straight road that I encountered some pretty strong winds which buffeted me around for a minute or so.

Once they stopped, I had one of those rare moments that riders describe where everything just comes together in one's mind and one achieves "oneness" with one's surroundings. The cold biting wind seeping into my helmet, Maria's smoothly running engine vibrations underneath me, no one in sight and snowcapped mountains all around me in the distance. Wow. It's been quite a while since everything just "flowed" and the world was perfect, no worries and no thoughts but the pure enjoyment of the ride at that moment.

To soon after that momentary feeling of "riding joy", I arrived at the small town of Walden shortly before 1030 and kept going onto CO14 where it junctioned with CO125. Now I was heading more of less East on CO14. The roads were pretty straight and you could see the mountain ranges to the West of Fort Collins getting nearer and nearer.

I pretty much had the roads to myself since Granby and it allowed me to stop pretty much wherever I chose to take pictures. The solitude mentioned in the website is really something tangible in this part of Colorado. Of course, the temperatures below 30 that I rode in till mid-morning probably kept people in their warm homes instead of riding around! The vistas of faraway mountain ranges are quite striking when you're in the open valleys.

There was Medicine Bow range of mountains to the Northeast which turn out to border the Rawah Wilderness and the Roosevelt National Forest according to my maps.
Medicine Bow Mountains

Once past the small town of Gould, you enter the Colorado State Forest and CO14 is a nicely winding road that is heavily forested on both sides by pine trees. You are climbing towards Cameron Pass all the while and then you come upon a couple of turnouts for slow vehicles where one is rewarded with the below views of Comanche Peak and Stormy Peaks.

Nokhu Crags on the left, Seven Utes Mountain on the right

Snow blowing off towards the left off of Nohku Crags

The view to the South as one approaches Cameron Pass

The road continues on, smooth and clear all the way to Cameron Pass:

As I made my down from Cameron Pass, the scenery slowly changes from forested hillsides to bare rock strewn hillsides. This continued for many miles as I neared Fort Collins, still on CO14. I did get stuck behind this truck which was pulling a trailer with two dirt bikes for quite a while on the slightly twisty roads leading down from Cameron Pass.

I finally had a safe point to pass him and I am glad that I did, his truck was apparently spewing fumes that although I could not see were making me dizzy and giving me a headache! Once past him, I sped on with no further issues and made it to Fort Collins near where CO14 junctions with US287. I stopped at the McDonald's there and had lunch and checked in with my loving wife. It was good to stop since I was tired, and was hot from all the riding gear I had on. The temps were now in the high 50s and low 60s and it felt positively hot after the early morning temperatures I'd ridden in!

The rest of the ride was slab riding, taking I-25 from Fort Collins south towards Denver and I-70 to the E-470 Toll Road and home. The only incident was this stereotypical punk with a sparse goatee in a white beater cage who could not seem to understand why my headlight was modulating it's high beam light. He kept pulling up next to me and gesturing to as to say: "what, why are you blinking your highbeam at me?". I quickly left him behind to his puzzlement.

A nice ride ride, about 350 miles and getting about 5o mpg on the tankful of gas I got at Granby. Perhaps 6 hours of saddle time overall. A bit chilly at times, but still, a beautiful riding day. No motorcycles in evidence while I was in the mountains, saw a few on I-25 after lunch and around town once things had warmed up.