Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's Progress I guess

Back in September of 2007, I found out about and blogged about D30 and their "reactive" armor product. See LINK.

It's been a year now and finally a couple of manufacturers, one is French and the other markets only to Law Enforcement, are coming out with rider gear which incorporates this wonderful D30 armor for rider protection in the event of a crash.

I've high hopes that more manufacturers will start incorporating this stuff into their gear selection. While I do ride presently with Cycleport's highly protective Kevlar Mesh jacket and pants, if I can replace their armor pads with this D30 stuff, I'll be even better protected!

I plan to check out the French site: LINK in the coming weeks and see if they also sell the armor pads separate from their line of rider clothing. I took a brief look at their current offerings, the stuff is not cheap, on par with the stuff from Cycleport but I guess quality comes at a price. You can also buy elbow/knee pad armor from these guys: LINK, perhaps I could then remove the armor and place it into my Cycleport gear? Hmmm....

Go here to see the D30 newsletter in full: LINK

Here's an excerpt:

cost: 589 Euros or $830 at today's exchange rate.....not cheap

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Thermometer for Brigitta

Today I stayed close to home in the couple of rides I made on Brigitta to just enjoy the warm fall day we had here in Colorado. I got her a cheapie digital thermometer which I waterproofed and mounted with a plastic clip onto the inboard end of the left hand control unit on the handle bar. I don't expect to be riding Brigitta in really cold weather since she's really got very little in terms of wind protection; however it'll be nice to be able to tell what temperature it is while riding.

Not very pretty but hopefully weatherproof

Maria's Thermometer, which I'd gotten months ago

At $11, it's a cheap farkle that adds function. If it doesn't work out or I tire of its appearance, not much lost. Yeah, I went a bit overboard with the waterproofing of the unit on Brigitta but its in a much more exposed location than the one on Maria. It uses a remote probe to sample temperatures so the sun hitting the display does not cause an erroneous reading as it would with regular motorcycle thermometers.

I got the thermometer both times from the local PetsMart. LINK

On a different note, I've posted pictures before of the "Golf Ball". A landmark near my home neighborhood which I see often from a distance as I return home from a ride.

I got this picture of Brigitta next to the structure which I believe houses a weather radar for the region. It makes for an interesting backdrop anyways.

Not much of a blog posting I'll admit but couldn't stray too far from home today. It's the first day after the start of a major mainframe migration from Denver to Atlanta by Travelport and United Airlines and we're going into troubleshooting shooting mode starting today. The next four weeks or so could prove interesting.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Late Night Changes at Work

In my line of work, a lot of the changes one makes or is involved with others in making, have to happen at night to minimize impact to the company's bottom line.

I am presently contracting with United Airlines doing network design and implementation stuff and last night was the latest in many a sleepless evening working on network changes to hopefully improve things for UAL.

Anyways, we were finally done at almost 0300 hrs MDT, aka O'Dark hundred in old army parlance. I donned my gear in the dark parking lot at the UAL Cargo Building's parking lot and headed off into the cool night air for the 30 minute ride home. My onboard thermometer recently died but I figure the temps were in the low 50s.

The roads, as you might surmise, were pretty devoid of traffic. I elected to bypass the E470 superslab which is my normal route to/from DIA and instead took surface roads all the way home. Surprising, or perhaps not, I made very good time even with catching several traffic lights as I made my way through the empty streets.

There's something rather nice about riding empty streets at night, the occasional car reminds you you're not alone but otherwise when compared with the chaos of my normal commuting patterns, it was very refreshing. I was riding Maria, my 2004 R1150RT with her full fairings protecting me from the cool early morning air, didn't even have to turn on the heated grips.

No deer or other wildlife spotted in spite of several signs posted warning one of such. The only thing was some dude, dressed in black, crossing the street a couple of blocks ahead of me on airport blvd. I saw him in plenty of time as I was scanning forward aggressively, but I have to wander what the heck he was doing walking about at 3 o'clock in the morning.

Got home at 0330hrs with no issues, about the same time if not better than if I'd taken the E-470 slab and saved myself the tolls each way.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sometimes, an Airhead's owner is also an Airhead

Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer, aka an airhead within the Beemer community was the deliverer of a lesson to its owner, me, today.

I'd rolled out of the garage backwards as usual and went to turn the ignition on this morning. Hmmm, no christmas tree lights on the dash. Christmas Tree lights is what the airhead community sometimes refers to as the lights which light up when you switch the ignition on.

This is what I got with ignition turned on

These are the lights you're supposed to see when you turn the ignition key

I remembered the sparks that I'd seen when I stupidly inserted the voltmeter's lightbulb onto its socket while the ignition was on last night. Damn, I thought to myself, I've blown some fuse I bet.

Off came the helmet, gloves, jacket. Up came the seat and I inspected the two 8amp fuses at their location below the rear end of the motorcycle's upper frame. Nope, they looked fine.

I recalled seeing fuses inside the headlight on the stripped down R90s I'd seen recently. I removed the nuts fastening the S fairing in order to remove the headlight mounting ring. Took a look inside. Nope, no fuses.

No fuses, but some unconnected wires....hmmm

I then tried to follow some of the troubleshooting diagnosis steps in the Clymer manual and got nowhere fast. Tried switching out the ICM with the spare, nothing.

In the process, I discovered how to "hotwire" an airhead so you don't need the ignition on to start it. Apparently, they're one of the easier motorcycles to steal out there.

So, my pitiful attempts at electronic diagnosis over with, I pulled off the three relays and went off to Pete Homan's shop hoping for some help.

Pete graciously took time from a motorcycle he was working on, tested each of the relays and pronounce the 30amp main relay as bad. Great I said, now to find a replacement since Pete did not stock any. His diagnosis cost me only $10 for ten minutes of his time.

On the way back from Pete's I figured I'd stop at the CarQuest auto parts store near the Beemer dealer since the dealer was closed on Mondays. Turns out that their p/n RY116 or perhaps V08183 is an exact replacement for the main relay on my R80! What luck! Something to keep in mind if your own airhead's main relay craps out on you while on the road and nowhere near a BMW dealer.

I get home, pop the new relay in, switch the ignition on....NOTHING, still no Christmas lights! Aaaaarrrggghhh! Now, here's where the lesson is taught to me by Brigitta and why the title of this posting says that I am an Airhead: The damn kill switch was in the off position on the handlebar control unit! I must have accidentally moved it while trying to put the replacement bulb in last night onto the voltmeter. The kill switch is not something I normally use, prefering to switch off the motorcycle using the ignition key, so its not something I conciously check before riding.

The Kill Switch, off above, on below

The Main Relay is the silver box closest to bottom of picture

So, with the kill switch now in the on position, the new main relay works fine and I get the wanted Christmas Lights on the dash. Just for GP, I pop in the old relay and damn if it doesn't work too! What the hell?

So now the question is: Was the diagnosis by Pete faulty or did the old main relay fail his testing because it's slowly going bad? Something else to worry me when things are quiet at night. I put the motorcycle back together and alls well once again, for now. I'll carry the new relay as a spare on the motorcycle just in case of course, its cost was $16 so the lesson was not expensive this time.

So yeah, sometimes the airhead is not only the motorcycle, it's also the owner. In this case, yours truly!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Day of Summer Ride

I heard on the news that today was the last day of summer, naturally this motivated me to go for a ride to enjoy the slighty cloudy warm weather we were enjoying.

I left the house shortly before 10am and swung by a couple of co-workers' homes to see if they wanted to join in the ride. No go. One was cleaning out his garage to make room for his new to him Harley Davidson and the other was working on his camper somewhere.

So I headed towards Castle Rock using the Crowfoot Parkway to get me to Founders Parkway. I crossed over the I-25 slab and headed North on US85 towards Sedalia. I spent some time racing a train also heading north alongside US85. I got ahead of it and watched as train crossing signs lowered as the train approached from behind me.

I then took Titan Parkway over to Waterton Canyon and CO121 which I took North towards Deer Creek Canyon Rd. The traffic was very light surprisingly and I managed to maintain good speed as I made my way through the twisty turns of this road until I got the Fenders. From the fire station there, I took Turkey Creek Road North, past where it intersects with US285, continuing on this road till I reached its junction with CO73. BTW, nice set of curves on North Turkey Creek Road!

At CO73 I headed South till it entered the town of Conifer. I briefly got on US285 here only to exit at the first exit past Conifer onto the road leading to Foxton Road. Foxton Road is another set of nicely twisting curves which eventually dump you at South Platte River Road. I took the SE direction and started riding on packed dirt shortly after that. The South Platte River road follows the Platte River (go figure!), making its way past rocky canyon walls. I saw several fishermen out enjoying the warm weather and passed several cagers enjoying the view of the rocks as well.

Just north of the only bridge on S. Platte River Road is the remnants of the South Platte Hotel. I always stop and pose my motorcycle next to this piece of history:

There's some homesteads shortly after you cross the bridge and I spied an old rusted out bulldozer nearly overgrown with vegetation. I've been down this road many times and never spotted it before. I wonder really how long its been there:

I continued riding at a pretty sedate pace, never more than say 25mph since the packed dirt road had a lot of loose gravel all over it. It had apparently recently rained as well as there were spots where the dirt was "moist" but not muddy.

I spotted a motorcycle heading towards me and it turned out to be a BMW GS zipping along the gravelly road with seemingly no care or worries. I maintained a sedate pace since I know my own limitations and the limitations of Maria, my 1150RT when not on good pavement!

Soon I hit pavement again, only to enter dirt one more time for about three miles as I took Douglas County 67 back northwards. The road was not any worse than what I'd already experienced but some of the steep grades as I climbed were "interesting" since the washboard terrain at times caused the rear wheel to slip a bit. Not a big deal, just something to keep one's attention level high.

I soon got the small hamlet of Sprucewood and picked up nice pavement once again. I stayed on what was now CO67 heading towards Sedalia. Nicely twisting road but got hung up behind a couple of slow-going cagers. Still, they managed to go fast enough to make the curves interesting for me and the couple of motorcycles that stacked up behind me.

Once we got to Sedalia, the motorcycles turned off in the town and I headed South back on US285 towards Castle Rock. I basically retraced my path from the morning and ended back at Parker near 230pm or so. I decided to head on home instead of dropping in on a friend of mine and was home before 3pm.

A nice little ride to finish off this year's summer riding season. It had climbed into the low 80s temperature-wise and felt quite warm. I was just wearing shorts and a tshirt under my kevlar mesh gear and felt more than warm.

I noticed some rust under the centerstand portions which touch ground so I removed them when I got home, repainted the areas and tightened a couple of screws I found working their way loose. Maria performed beautifully as usual, she needed the exercise since I've been using Brigitta mostly for the daily work commutes. That will change as the weather turns colder I am sure.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Motorcycles in Watercolor

A recent commentator on one of my postings has this interesting blog site featuring a lot of artwork, some of it is apparently his own apparently since he's placed watermarks on them. The site is in French but art is art.

He had this one of a Beemer R100S which I thought was pretty cool:

LINK to above graphic's blog posting

His site is not only motorcycle art but he's got them categorized if that's what your orientation is when you visit his site. It's worth a visit, it's not only Beemers that's he's pictured, other marques as well are rendered.

I've always like this type of drawing/painting, also on the Turboflat blog.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back to the System Cases for my Motorcycles

I'd recently posted a query on the Airheads email list seeking clarification on how my engine guards should fit on Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer.

I wondered if they were the right ones for my motorcycle since I had recently had been forced to loosen the engine guards within their mounts in order to remove the valve covers to check the valve clearances. On another occasion, I'd had to remove the left one totally in order to fully access the finned exhaust nut in order to service it. Kind of annoying you know? Not to mention there was actual contact between the left side engine guard and the leading edge of the valve cover itself!

A few emails later, I learned that they engine guards are probably made by Krauser, and that they've worked fine on one Airhead's /6 motorcycle for over 25 years. This particular owner like them and they had saved some damage on the motorcycle during a particularly bad slide. He also mentioned his hard cases had kept the rear portion of his motorcycle from much damage and more importantly kept the motorcycle from pinning his leg under the motorcycle.

So, back on go the hard cases on Brigitta. I figure it'll be cheaper to replace the lid on a road-rashed system case than replace the rear motorcycle parts that would otherwise probably contact the ground in case of a fall; parts such as the tail plastic, luggage rack, turn signal stalks and exhaust pipe come to mind.

Along with the hard cases, the engine guards are also back on. There's hot debate as to their usefulness within the airhead community but for low speed/parking lot drops I think they'll do fine. Also, they're not the type which apparently BMW sold which one person swears are the devil's own creation (my words). LINK.

I found, with some careful sequencing on the tightening of the mounting bolts, that I could at least achieve a bit of clearance between the bars and the valve covers. So at least there's no physical contact between them now. I'll probably still have to loosen/remove them to remove the valve covers but no big deal, just annoying.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homebrew Triboseat Rider Proof of Concept

The other day I removed the wood blocks placed in Maria, my 2004 R1150RT, to elevate by 1/4 inch the seat mounting mechanism under the rider's seat front edge.

Lowering it 1/4 inch does not sound like much but it now allows me to more firmly flatfoot my feet at stops and such while riding Maria. I hope for a more secure footing which should render less likely my dropping the bike during unplanned hard stops such as the other night.

However, removing the blocks also made it easier for me to slide forward on the seat while riding and of course while stopping which can be a bit hard on the knees. I found myself, during a short test ride, sliding forward more than usual and did not like it.

A bit of internet research later, I found this product made in Great Britain: LINK

Triboseat Rider

While it's only $32 with shipping, I wanted to see how well the concept worked since I had some leftover material which seemed similar in look and properties to the Triboseat product.

A closeup of the material I used, pretty sure its similar to the triboseat stuff

So far, it works as expected, my butt remains firmly anchored where it contacts the material. Narrow as it is cut now, I can slide forward in preparation for stops and such so that I am not fighting the material's grip while positioning myself for stops.

A few more rides, of longer duration are now needed to get the full effect.

Update: 22SEP08: Close to 200 miles of riding now using the above "proof of concept", it works just fine. In fact, not sure I actually need to buy the Triboseat Rider item itself. YMMV.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another Harley Rider joins their ranks

No, not me..... but the title got your attention didn't it?

One of my ex-co-worker friends from my IBM days, John, a re-entry rider after approximately 20 years pause, bought himself a really good looking Harley Davidson motorcycle. An Ultra Classic I believe though I confess not much knowledge on the various HD models and their differences.

It's a big bike with full fairings to include movable air deflectors and lower fairings as well. We went during lunch today and he picked himself up some good leather gloves and a Shoei full face helmet so that was good. He's also planning to take the Basic Rider Course through the MSF as well so I was glad to hear that.

While I am not ever likely to own a Harley-Davidson, I still like their lines and looks.

Exhaust Nut - Yearly Maintenance

I bought Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer back in June of 2008, not much in the way of maintenance records came with her. One of the things I did not know enough about then was to ask when was the last time the Finned Exhaust Nuts which hold the front portion of the exhaust pipes onto the engine's jugs had last been lubricated with anti-seize lubricant.

The BMW Finned Exhaust Nut

As my knowledge grew, thanks mainly to the Airheads Email List, Snowbum's excellent site on Airheads and their maintenance and troubleshooting and such other sources, I learned one should lubricate the threads for these exhaust nuts on a yearly or so basis. Failure to do so, will result in jammed exhaust nuts which then have to be cut off (if you're lucky and no other damage ensued) or more costly repairs involving exhaust pipe replacement.

So, today the wrench I ordered off some outfit on Ebay arrived. Its pretty lightweight and it seemed to be made of ceramic based on its surface texture. The seller says its aluminum I think. Regardless, it works as advertised. I did have to use a mallet to break the grip loose on the exhaust nuts but otherwise smooth sailing.

The exposed threads before cleaning with wire brush, they were not bad at all

The special tool one needs, although some have used a strap wrench successfully

I applied a light coat of anti-seize lubricant from the auto parts store onto the threads and carefully spun the nuts back onto them till finger-tight.

I then used the wrench to secure the exhaust nuts firmly into place. There's no real published values as to torque for this item. Snowbum says to give it a good grunt while tightening. I used the mallet to further tighten it a bit as well.

I turned on the engine, could not feel any exhaust leaking from the exhaust nuts so am calling the job good for now. I removed the engine guards which were in the way and may place them back on in a few days. I'd been having to remove the darn things to pull the valve covers and now the exhaust nuts....they may be more trouble than they're worth?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Encountering a Stripped Down R90S @ Matt's

Yesterday, when I arrived at Matt Parkhouse's place to have the carb body swapped on Brigitta, I found this at the end of Matt's driveway:

1977 R90S
A fellow airhead had Matt rebuild the engine's valves, pushrods and some other pieces. They had been puzzling over a swingarm assembly which would not come out easily. It turns out that somehow it had gotten damaged and the guy ended up buying a swingarm from Matt instead.

Here's some pictures I took of the R90S as she sat tied down in the trailer while Matt prepped to remount the engine onto the frame:

Headlight Bucket's Innards - Note the neat color coding

Master Cylinder which sits under the gas tank

Steering Damper, apparently these models could get a high speed wobble, end result was a redesign which extended the swingarm's length on later models, resulting in longer wheelbase which eliminated the wobbles.

Following shots show the engine block and its mounting back into the frame. The engine's front cover was removed and I also got some shots of the electronics therein. Cool stuff huh? My Brigitta is similar to a certain extent so I look upon all these photos as ready reference for when I decide to tackle certain jobs.

You can see the clutch plate above

Engine Block, back in the frame

Engine Front End

Almost ready to go home for further re-assembly

Another view of the engine's front end

Although tending to the other airhead's needs proved longer than 30 minutes as initially estimated by Matt, I did not mind. I learned a lot about how an engine block goes back onto a frame, saw the innards above, saw the spline that needed lubing every 15k sticking out the front of the transmission and where it goes into the engine block, learned the purposed of a steering damper on the /6 and /7 bikes, saw how a swingarm is put back onto the frame and asked and got questions answered by Matt as I thought of them.

I regret not learning my fellow airhead's name, he seemed a wealth of knowledge as well and he's apparently rebuilt other marque's bikes, bikes such as Norton Commandos and Triumph BSAs. This R90s he's restoring will probably be entered in a Concours in the future. Its his first BMW and he seemed quite enthused by the prospect.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Swapping Carburetor Bodies @ Matt's Place

Today was the day I was scheduled to ride Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer Airhead, down to Colorado Springs to Matt Parkhouse's place for him to swap the damaged carb body Brigitta came with for one I got from airheadsalvage.com.

Matt Parkhouse is one of the recognized gurus of the Airheads Email List which is used to spread wisdom/knowledge/fixes/info amongst Airheads all over the world. I just lucked out in that he agreed to help with me with the swap and that he was close by.

I got there a little after 1030am, having had to return shortly after leaving home to retrieve my camera. Just as well I was running late since Matt was tied up with another Airhead owner of a stripped down 1977 R90S. It was part of a ground up restoration and I'll cover the pictures I took of them working on that bike in a later posting.

A bit after 1200 or so, Matt was finally free and ready for me. I rode Brigitta into Matt's yard and next to his shop. He got to work immediately and within a minute or so had the carb off the left side of the bike and into the shop.

Matt has done hundreds of these carb jobs so he moved fast. I tried to keep up with photos but really, I was trying to actually see him do the actual work for when I do the rebuild next time they're due. He made it look so easy but I was comforted to see even he used an assembled carburetor as a guide when it came to putting things back together! In fact, as I'd read online somewheres, he also recommends keeping one carb assembled while you work on the other when doing rebuilds. It prevents mixing parts up since some of them are "handed" in that they are made to be on the specific side's carburetor, otherwise you reverse their function/range of motion which is not good.

The part of the swap process, the removal of the throttle plate and the peened mounting screws which I'd feared doing alone the most, proved anticlimatic as the screws appeared to Matt not to be peened. He did start dremeling one of the them so I got to see how that's done. In the end though, not much dremeling was needed.

Here's the left Carb without the cover

Disassembly begins, note the broken end on the mounting post that caused all this to occur

Most of the parts, removed, they were cleaned as they were taken off

The new carb body

Most of the parts on the new carb body

Old floats back on, new pin in place as the old one was bent

Carb Needle and old float

Old and New Diaphragms comparison, old is near top of pic

New Carb Body in place

Matt Parkhouse/Guru and Brigitta

Matt's wife's R100/7, note the well worn seat! This one has 107,777 miles on it, Matt's got another airhead with over 440k on it! He rebuilds the engines about every 100k miles. You can bet this bike is in much sounder mechanical condition than mine is!

Matt made it all look easy but I am sure its all a result of years of experience and practice/learning on his part with great mechanical talent thrown in.

Once he had Brigitta put back together, there was some tweaking of the carb floats to be done as I'd bent them before to deal with the vagaries induced by the bent mounting pin for the floats. He got that squared away easily enough though and I took Brigitta out for a test ride to warm her up prior to Matt doing a carb sync.

Once I got back I watched Matt do a carb sync by shorting each spark plug in turn as he made adjustments to the opposing carburetor. It was simply amazing how he did it. His method, he says, is more accurate since it balances the whole power process and not just the vacuum as the manometer method I use does. He's made from a couple of used /5 spokes, two rods which attach respectively on each spark plug end, the other end connects to the spark plug cable. To short out the plug he wants to short, he just touches the rod with a screwdriver! Cool stuff. I wish I'd thought to take pictures of them.

He got the idle correct using these tools, now I know you're supposed to adjust it so that the respective carburetor just barely stays running. Again, he made it look so easy.

He then ran up the rpms to about 3000 with a throttle lock and quickly switching between spark plugs with his shorting screwdrivers balanced the carbs at speed as well! Amazing. No pics, I was just barely keeping up with him just watching and I did not want to miss the Master at work! He works fast since its not good to run the engine without air moving over the jugs!

Brigitta is running sweetly now, her throttle response is snappier I think and I'm having to relearn my shifting/throttle operation due to the changes for the better. She sounds great, a bit throatier actually. Matt did preemptively replace both carb diaphragms since they were coming close to needing replacement.

Not expensive either, the whole thing came to $139! Labor and parts! Matt will probably be the guy I take the transmission on Brigitta for rebuild when that's due. He's a great teacher and mechanic and I can see why he's recognized as a Guru amongst Airheads.

Thanks Matt!